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How Can I Clear a Warrant in California Without Going to Jail?

Posted by Sam Israels | Nov 17, 2020

How Can I Clear a Warrant in California Without Going to Jail?
If you have an active warrant in California, it might be possible to clear the warrant without having to spend time in jail.

If you have an active California bench or arrest warrant, you might have the option of getting the warrant recalled without having to make a court appearance, post a bail, or even serve time in jail.  A “bench warrant” is a warrant to arrest and hold someone who could have either:

  • Failed to appear in court for any reason;
  • Disobeyed a court order;
  • Probation violation;
  • Failed to pay fines;
  • Failed to provide proof of enrollment in court-ordered class;
  • Failed to provide a progress report for court-ordered program;
  • Failed to appear for a traffic citation.

Once a bench or arrest warrant is issued, you could be arrested and detained after you come into contact with law enforcement.

Quash a bench warrant

The legal process to recall or quash a bench warrant requires that either you:

  • Appear in court before the judge;
  • Have your attorney appear on your behalf.

The term “quash” simply means to have it removed from California's judicial system.

If your bench warrant was issued due to a misdemeanor related offense, then your lawyer can make the court appearance on your behalf in order to get the warrant recalled.  To appear “on your behalf” simply means you don't have to be present in court.

In all California criminal courthouses, there are a wide range of reasons why someone can have a judge issue a bench or arrest warrants for them.

One of the most common questions we receive from a defendant with an active warrant is how they can clear a warrant without serving jail time?

This article will review the different ways why arrest or bench warrants are issued and attempts to clear these warrants without serving time in jail. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers are providing a review below.

Why Are Arrest Warrants Issued in California?

Why Are Arrest Warrants Issued in California?
Arrest warrants are normally issued after a grand jury indictment or there was evidence of a crime presented to a judge.

Arrest warrants are different than bench warrants. Judges in California will typically issue an arrest warrant for someone who is wanted for a crime when:

  • There is evidence of a crime presented to a judge by a prosecutor or police officer;
  • A grand jury returns a criminal indictment.

Arrest warrants will normally be issued after a criminal case was filed against someone who wasn't arrested at the scene of the crime.

A common example would include a situation involving financial fraud offenses that often take some time to complete an investigation.

Once the prosecutor has decided to file charges, it's likely the defendant is not already in police custody, thus making it necessary to pursue an arrest warrant.

It should be noted that law enforcement can normally only hold someone in custody 48 hours without charges being filed.  This is why an arrest warrant will often be issued after formal charges have been filed.

Why Are Bench Warrants Issued in California?

Bench warrants are normally issued while a case is pending or when a defendant is on probation after they were convicted.

A bench warrant is an order from a judge to arrest a defendant because of some failure by the defendant's to follow the court's orders.

Frequently, a judge issues a bench warrant because the defendant failed to appear at a scheduled court date without notifying the court.

Probation violation 

Another common reason for a bench warrant includes a situation when the court is notified that a defendant violated the terms of probation because:

  • Failed to provide a required progress report, such as:
  • DUI education class;
  • Domestic violence counselling class;
  • Community service.

Defendant's on probation are usually required to provide these reports to the clerk's office by a specific date.

Yet another reason includes when a probation office sends information to the court the defendant was arrested for a new crime and didn't report the incident to probation.

Even in situations where police are not likely to make an attempt to find a defendant who has an active arrest warrant, they will still have the daily stress of knowing that any contact with police could result in their arrest.

Can I Avoid Jail Time If I Self-Surrender On a Warrant?

There is an unwritten rule that any defendant who enters the courthouse through the front door is much more likely to leave through the same front door.

This is based on the fact that many defendants with an active warrant will attempt to evade capture and are only appearing in the courtroom because law enforcement tracked them down.

California criminal court judges will not view these type of defendants as favorably as one who decides to respect the process by voluntarily surrendering on the active warrant.

Prior Negotiation with Prosecutor to Arrange Release

Prior Negotiation with Prosecutor to Arrange Release on a Warrant
Your criminal defense lawyer can have prior negotiations with the prosecutor to help expedite your “self-surrender” to the court.

Prior negotiations between an experienced criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor can help expedite a defendant's “self-surrender” to the court.

This pre-surrender negotiation can increase the likelihood that the prosecutor will:

  • Stipulate to an own recognizance release, or
  • A stipulated bail amount.

Even in a situation where the defendant needs to post bail, it might be possible to get approval to allow the bond to be posted in court, which would prevent the need for a defendant to go into custody before they bail out.

The procedure to clear bench warrants in California will differ from each judge and courthouse.

Felony vs. misdemeanor cases

However, in all felony cases, a defendant will be required to personally appear in the court for a bench warrant to be recalled.

In California misdemeanor cases, most judges will allow a criminal lawyer representing a defendant to recall and quash a bench warrant without them appearing in the courtroom as defined under California Penal Code 977 PC.

Clearly, not having to personally appear in court gives a defendant many advantages, such as a situation where they live out-of-state or have other circumstances in their lives that prevent them from going to court.

Why Should I Retain a Lawyer to Clear My Warrant?

If you have an active warrant for your arrest, contact our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers to review the details and options.

Contact Cron, Israels & Stark for Help with a Warrant
Contact our criminal defense law firm of Cron, Israels & Stark if you have an active warrant for your arrest in California.

We will explain the possibility of getting your warrant recalled without going to court or spending time in jail, which will depend on different factors.

If you have a bench warrant for a probation violation, we might be able to recall the warrant and persuade the court to not remand you into custody.

Clearing bench and arrest warrants without serving jail time requires an experienced criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with:

  • Courtroom where the warrant must be recalled;
  • Judge who issued the warrant;
  • Prosecutor assigned to the case.

If you or a family member has an outstanding warrant for their arrest, contact our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys for an initial evaluation.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a top-rated criminal defense law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. We also have an office at 401 Wilshire Blvd #1200, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Contact our office for a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.

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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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