The Difference Between a Bench Warrant and an Arrest Warrant in Massachusetts

None of us really wants to be on the other side of the  justice system. But when we find ourselves in such a position, it is essential that we face the problem head on, and deal with it immediately. Unfortunately, warrants do not just disappear.  Avoiding or postponing the inevitable will almost certainly result in more severe consequences.

In criminal cases, failure to appear at a scheduled court date may result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest. If this happens, you will need to act immediately; police may take you into custody at any time.

Bench Warrants vs. Arrest Warrants

Warrants are issued for a multitude of reasons. In MA, there are two primary types of warrants – bench warrants and arrest warrants. The differences between the two are explained below.

A bench warrant may be issued if you fail to appear for a scheduled court date. Police have the authority to take you into custody if you have an outstanding bench warrant. In addition to failure to appear in court, these warrants are issued for violating probation, and failure to pay child support or complete community service. If police take you into custody on a bench warrant,  you could end up stuck in jail until the court schedules a hearing on your case. You will also likely have to pay court fees.

When a bench warrant is issued against you, police may or may not actively seek you out. For this reason, people often mistakenly assume that the problem has miraculously disappeared. But even a minor traffic stop years later can result in police running your name, seeing the warrant, and placing you under arrest.

An arrest warrant is issued when a police officer provides substantial evidence that you have committed a criminal offense. If a judge issues the warrant, police are authorized to arrest you at any time. One main difference between bench warrants and arrest warrants is that police will actively seek you out when an arrest warrant has been issued. If taken into custody, you could be held in jail without bail until the court schedules a hearing on your case. A Boston criminal defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you are facing a bench or arrest warrant.

Failure to Appear in Court

In addition to the issuance of a bench warrant, failure to appear in court may also carry its own penalties. In Massachusetts, the penalties for failing to appear in court may include:

  • Failure to appear on a misdemeanor proceeding: Up to one year in jail and fines up to $10,000
  • Failure to appear on a felony proceeding: Up to two-and-a-half years in jail and fines up to $50,000

You can avoid a warrant and the penalties above by dealing with the problem proactively and arriving on time to all scheduled court dates. If you accidentally miss a court hearing, however, a skilled Boston defense attorney can help you protect your rights.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Law Firm Serving Boston and the Surrounding Areas

If any type of warrant has been issued against you, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. We have been protecting the rights of individuals charged with criminal offenses for more than 50 years. Our knowledgeable attorneys will thoroughly review the details of your case to determine the most appropriate legal strategy, and we’ll ensure that you fully understand your rights and options before moving forward. We will fight tirelessly to keep you out of jail and to keep your record clean. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we have an impressive track record of getting our clients’ charges reduced or dismissed entirely. Don’t go through this difficult time alone, we can help. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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