A warrant is an order issued by a judge or any other person authorized by law that empowers a law enforcement officer to carry out a specific action and ensure the efficiency of the justice system.
There are several types of warrants issued for different purposes. Many people are familiar with search warrants and arrest warrants that give police officers the right to search a property or take a person into custody. These warrants are issued by a judge upon the application of law enforcement officers to enable them to investigate a criminal offense or apprehend a suspected criminal.
There is another type of warrant called the bench warrant. This type of warrant is similar to an arrest warrant because it mandates the arrest of a person by law enforcement. However, it is not issued because the subject has committed or is suspected of committing a crime. It can be issued against anyone who violates a court rule regardless of their involvement in a criminal offense.
A bench warrant is serious and is not going to disappear if you ignore it. If one has been issued against you, you’ll need to deal with it appropriately or face serious sanctions, including possible jail time. In such circumstances, a criminal defense attorney can help you take the appropriate action immediately.
In the meantime, please read on to understand how bench warrants in Illinois work and what you must do if one has been issued against you.
A bench warrant is a powerful tool that judges use to protect the integrity and sanctity of the judicial system.
It differs from an arrest or search warrant because it is not issued upon the urging of police officers who have probable cause to suspect a crime and need a legal basis to investigate or make an arrest. When the police need such a warrant, they typically approach the judge in their chambers to obtain them. But with a bench warrant, things are different.
A judge sitting on the “bench” in the open courtroom can issue a bench warrant of their own volition against anyone who does anything that interferes with the judicial process or is contrary to the court’s rules. Acts that could lead to the issuance of a bench warrant include:
If you are required to appear in court to face trial or for any reason and fail to show up on the court date, the judge may issue a bench warrant against you to secure your attendance in court.
Suppose a judge issues an order directing you to act in a certain way or do or refrain from certain acts. In that case, you must comply with the order even if you think the order is unfair. Flouting court orders could amount to contempt of court and could lead to a bench warrant being issued against you and the consequences that follow.
Most court orders can be modified or canceled. So, instead of disobeying them and risking a bench warrant, contact a lawyer for help if you feel the terms of the order are unnecessarily harsh. They can advise you appropriately and help you navigate the modification/cancelation procedure.
If a bench warrant is issued against you for any reason, you risk immediate arrest by the police. When arrested in such circumstances, you may be granted bail after posting a cash bond (paying a specific fee in exchange for your release). Otherwise, you could be detained until you are brought before the judge.
Even if you are granted bail after a bench warrant, you’ll still need to appear before the judge to resolve the reason why the bench warrant was issued. The only difference is that you do not have to remain in police custody while you wait for a decision on your case.
When you appear in court, the judge may ask questions to determine if you had a good reason for your actions, disobeying the court’s rules or orders. What qualifies as a “good reason” would depend on the circumstances of your case. For example, if a bench warrant was issued because you failed to appear in court, and you can establish that you were in an accident and sustained injuries that prevented you from attending court, that would likely be accepted as a good reason.
If you fail to provide a reasonable explanation for your actions, you could face serious sanctions, including jail time and payment of fines. Suppose you were already facing criminal charges and were out on bail before the bench warrant was issued. In that case, the stakes are higher, and you could be made to remain in police custody until the criminal case is concluded.
As such, you must prepare to defend yourself diligently and show the court that you had no intention of undermining its authority.
Bench warrants in Illinois don’t expire. They remain active until they are executed or the issuing judge cancels them. Therefore, if you’re aware or suspect that there’s an outstanding bench warrant against you, you need to take steps to resolve the issue immediately.
You do not need to wait for the police to find and arrest you. You can proceed to the county jail or law enforcement office covering your Illinois location and self-surrender.
Self-surrendering may be a good approach if your warrant permits your release on a cash bond (after paying a certain amount). In such cases, you can go with your court documents(if any) and the bond amount. You’ll be released once the bond is posted.
If you are not sure whether the warrant would allow your release after posting a bond, self-surrendering may not be a good idea. Instead, you may need to contact an Illinois criminal defense lawyer for help. They can assess your situation and help you decide on the most appropriate way to resolve the warrant.
If you are already facing criminal charges, there’s a chance that an outstanding bench warrant could increase the severity of your charges. It could also make the judge less lenient when deciding on the punishment if you’re found guilty of the original charges.
An Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer can defend you throughout your trial and fight to ensure your freedom regardless of the bench warrant’s impact (if any).
A bench warrant is as effective as an arrest or search warrant and should never be ignored. If one has been issued against you, it is essential to take appropriate action to address the warrant and avoid further legal complications.
At Hirsch Law Group, we understand the consequences of an outstanding bench warrant in Illinois. With our experience, we can provide the legal counsel and guidance you need to resolve the situation and avoid the harsh penalties associated with Illinois warrants.
Our fierce Chicago Felony Lawyer can also represent you if you are facing felony or criminal charges in Illinois and work to ensure a positive outcome in your case.
Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation and discuss your case.
When a warrant is issued in Illinois, details of the warrant are usually posted across various federal, state, and local websites. If you suspect a warrant has been issued against you, you can search your local county sheriff’s office website or the website of the county where you suspect the warrant was issued for confirmation.