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How Can You Clear and Remove Warrants?

Posted by Sam Israels | Mar 12, 2024

Suppose you have an active warrant in California. In that case, you could be arrested during a police officer contact at a traffic stop. It can also have an impact on your background check for employment. Sometimes, for serious felony warrants, perhaps the police will even come looking for you to make an arrest.

To remove or clear the warrant (quash), you or your defense attorney should voluntarily appear before the judge and request a warrant recall. In California, the primary warrants within the criminal justice system are a bench warrant, an arrest warrant, and a search warrant.

How Can You Clear and Remove Warrants in California?
To remove an active warrant, you or your lawyer can appear in court and ask for a recall.

A bench warrant is a type of warrant that is used to arrest you if you fail to appear in court or obey a court order. Typically, you can clear or “quash” a bench warrant by appearing in court or having your attorney appear on your behalf if it's a misdemeanor.

Arrest warrants allow law enforcement officers to arrest you if they suspect you of committing a crime outside of a police officer's presence. Sometimes, a criminal defense lawyer can persuade a judge not to issue an arrest warrant, or if it has already been issued, they could help you avoid serving any jail time.

A search warrant authorizes law enforcement to search you, your residence, your vehicle, your place of business, or other areas suspected of having evidence of illegal activity. 

Sometimes, a defense lawyer can file motions with the court to clear a search warrant (Franks motion). It may be possible to challenge a search warrant by filing a motion to “quash and traverse” the warrant. The motion questions the affidavit that was the basis for issuing the search warrant.

A California criminal defense attorney can play a crucial role in helping to clear and remove criminal warrants. They can also determine whether you have an outstanding warrant and develop a strategy to challenge it in court while appearing with you.

Sometimes, depending on the type of warrant, a defense lawyer can help you avoid serving time in a county jail or state prison. They can also take steps to quash the warrant.

How Can You Clear a Bench Warrant?

As noted, a bench warrant in California is an arrest warrant issued by a judge from the bench, which is where the name comes from. They are initiated and issued directly by the judge. Notably, your criminal defense lawyer can appear in court on your behalf for misdemeanors. 

Simply put, they are used to arrest and detain someone who has either failed to appear in court or disobeyed a court order. You can often clear or “quash” a bench warrant by appearing in court or having their lawyer appear on your behalf.

To quash a bench warrant means the court will remove it from California's judicial system. They are typically issued for the following reasons:  

  • Failure to appear (FTA). This means you failed to appear for a court appearance after promising to appear. A typical example is not showing up in court for a traffic citation after you were cited to court. Another example is a bench warrant after you failed to appear in court after being released on your own recognizance for criminal charges.
  • Failed to comply with a court order or pay for a misdemeanor offense. This includes failing to pay fines, failure to complete court-ordered community service, and violating the terms of probation. A typical example consists of a bench warrant issued by a judge for failure to attend a batterer intervention class after an arrest for domestic violence

If your failure to obey a court order is related to a felony, you must personally appear in court, with or without a lawyer, to clear the warrant. If you do not clear a bench warrant, it means police can then arrest you and bring you to court, where the judge can place you in custody or release you with a warning.

A bench warrant does not necessarily mean you've been charged with a crime but can result in an arrest. Bench warrants compel you, through arrest, to appear before the judge to answer why you failed to appear in court or disobeyed a court order. They are a tool the court uses to enforce its orders and ensure compliance.

What are the Possible Consequences of a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant issued against you can carry several possible consequences unless it's removed, such as the following: 

  • Police can locate and arrest you anytime at work, home, or traffic stop.
  • The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend your driver's license, and it will not be reinstated until you clear the warrant.
  • If you were released pending a trial, the warrant might result in the court increasing your bail or denying it altogether.
  • A bench warrant can appear during criminal background checks conducted by employers, lenders, landlords, etc.

What About an Arrest Warrant?

Suppose a judge has not already issued a warrant for your arrest. In that case, a criminal defense lawyer can start collecting favorable evidence to avoid criminal charges possibly.

It might be possible to show there is no probable cause that you committed a crime. A prosecutor must establish probable cause before a judge issues an arrest warrant.

Suppose there is already an outstanding warrant for your arrest. In that case, your lawyer can try to keep you from remaining in police custody. They can also go to court with you and ask the judge to release you on bail or on your own recognizance.

Can a Lawyer Get a Warrant Removed?

Suppose a bench warrant was issued against you. In that case, a lawyer may be able to get it removed (cleared) before it is executed. This means removing it from the California judicial system and eliminating the threat of an arrest.  

Notably, to get a warrant removed, you or your lawyer will typically have to appear before a judge to request it. You will need a valid reason for failing to appear or comply with the court order. Perhaps there was an unavoidable circumstance.

As noted, for misdemeanors, your lawyer can typically appear on your behalf to have the bench warrant cleared, such as failing to make a court appearance or pay a fine. Felonies will require you to appear in court personally. 

Suppose your bench warrant was issued due to not completing a court-ordered program. In that case, successfully fulfilling the obligation will help quash the warrant.

Our California criminal defense attorneys can help you clear and remove criminal warrants. We can help you determine whether you have an active outstanding warrant and identify the type of warrant. We can take steps to have a bench warrant removed, known as "clearing," "recalling," or "quashing" it. Contact us for a free case evaluation. Cron, Israels & Stark is based in Los Angeles, CA. 

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About the Author

Sam Israels

Sam J. Israels is a Law Firm partner with the Law Offices of Cron, Israels, & Stark. Mr. Israels received his J.D. degree from the Santa Clara University School of Law. Mr. Israels also previously worked at the Los Angeles Office of the City Attorney. He is admitted to practice law in the State o...

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