By: Frances Prizzia | Criminal & DUI Defense

Not all warrants will send the police to your door for an arrest. In fact, the most common type of warrant in California is a bench warrant, or one that is issued by a judge. Bench warrants do not seek people who have committed criminal offenses, but rather those who have been found to be in contempt of the court.

You can be found in contempt of the court if you:

  • Do not appear when summoned to court.
  • Do not pay any fines or fees issued or backed by a court ruling.
  • Disobey an order directly from a judge or a court.

For most people, falling in contempt of the court probably seems like a far off reality that doesn't apply to them. After all, the average person has never had a lawsuit that brought them into the courtroom. However, there is an innumerable amount of Californians who probably have a bench warrant on their name, and jury duty is to blame. Being summoned to jury duty is the same as being summoned to appear in court. Many people will admit to outright ignoring jury duty mailings, and, therefore, they have ignored a court order and could have a bench warrant on their name.


Bench warrants are not arrest warrants and, as the difference suggests, police officers will not be dispatched to find and arrest you. This does not mean you are completely out of legal trouble, though. Most people find out they have bench warrants after they go to court for a separate reason, like a family law hearing, or are pulled over for a routine traffic stop.

Once a police officer is aware that you have a bench warrant, they can arrest you, even if you were doing nothing illegal at the time your interaction began. You will be brought to court where a judge will have to decide if they want to let you off with a stern warning, or place you in a jail cell for another hearing. You could be charged with the misdemeanor crime of "failing to appear" and a conviction for this could put you in jail for longer or fine you thousands of dollars.


Some bench warrants can be quickly resolved, if you are willing to pay a fine. On average, someone who violates a court order in California can expect to pay $1,000 per incident. Paying the total fines can have the bench warrants disappear without further incident or charges in many cases.

If you do not believe your bench warrants are justified and therefore do not think paying any fine would be fair, you can attempt to have them quashed or recalled. This procedure relies heavily on your understanding of the law and your rights. It is advised you seek the help of a professional defense attorney if you want to have bench warrants quashed.

The Law Office of Frances Prizzia and our Orange County criminal defense lawyer can help you review your bench warrants and determine if fighting them is your best option. All you need to do is call 888.392.8114 and request a free consultation with our team to begin.

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