The best way to recall an Arizona bench warrant is to retain an attorney to file a “motion to quash” with the court. Judges usually quash bench warrants as long as the person does not have a long history of missing court. And in many cases, the attorney can appear in court without the defendant having to show up him/herself.
Here are six steps for quashing an Arizona bench warrant:
Step 1: Check if you have a warrant
People are typically notified by mail if they have a bench warrant. And in felony cases, defendants should be served with notice in person.
Otherwise check the Arizona Judicial Branch’s online portal, which allows people to search for outstanding bench warrants in 177 of the 184 courts in Arizona. Users just need to input their first name, last name, and date of birth. If a warrant appears, people can click on it to see:
- the date it was issued,
- which Arizona court issued it,
- any activity in the case so far, and
- the reason the warrant was issued.
Another way to check for outstanding bench warrants is to call either the Arizona Department of Public Safety at (602) 223-2233, the local police or sheriff’s office, or an attorney to check on the person’s behalf.
Courts typically issue bench warrants when a person disobeys court orders, such as:
- Missing a required court date;
- Not paying child support
- Not showing up for jury duty
- Not showing up to testify as a witness after being subpoenaed
- Otherwise being found in contempt
Note that when a court issues a bench warrant, the person’s license gets suspended for the duration of the warrant. And warrants never expire until a judge quashes them. Bench warrants can be outstanding indefinitely.
Also note that bench warrants are completely different from arrest warrants, which issue at the very beginning of a case against a person the D.A. has probable cause to believe committed a crime. When a person has an arrest warrant, she/she should contact an attorney right away. It is usually necessary to surrender to the police, but it may be possible to schedule a “walk-through booking” ahead of time where the person gets released on bail or his/her own recognizance.
Step 2: Hire an Attorney
People who know or suspect they have a bench warrant in Arizona should contact a local criminal defense attorney immediately to discuss all options. In some cases, the matter may be cleared up just by paying a court fine. But in other cases, it may be necessary for the attorney to file a motion to quash with the court.
Step 3: File a motion to quash the bench warrant
If necessary, the criminal defense attorney will compose a motion to quash the bench warrant and file it with the Arizona court that issued the warrant. Once filed, the court clerk will put the matter on calendar. This means the court will schedule a hearing, usually within a week or so.
Step 4: Avoid trouble while the warrant is outstanding
Once people know or suspect they may have a bench warrant, they need to “wear a halo” and do everything possible to avoid run-ins with the police.
Police are unlikely to go out and actively search for people with outstanding bench warrants unless they are facing serious felony charges. But if during an ordinary traffic stop the police run the driver’s name and see a warrant, the police will arrest him/her immediately. In addition, the person will face criminal charges for driving on a suspended license (ARS 28-3473) since having an outstanding warrant automatically suspends the person’s license.
Step 5: Appear at future necessary court appearances
In many cases, the criminal defense attorney can appear at the motion to quash hearing without the person named in the warrant having to show up. But in some cases, the court will require that the person appear personally and perhaps even post bond to remain out of custody.
In practice, judges are usually willing to quash bench warrants if there was a good reason for disobeying the court, such as getting into an accident or becoming very sick. And as long as the person does not have a history of missing court, courts typically quash bench warrants anyway. But there is always the risk that the judge will remand the person into custody for the remainder of the underlying criminal case.
Assuming the bench warrant gets quashed, the person should be careful to show up at all future required court appearances. If there is another missed appearance, the judge may not be as willing to quash the warrant again.
Step 6: Reinstate driver’s license
After the bench warrant gets quashed, the person should then reinstate his/her driver’s license with the Motor Vehicles Department (MVD). Arizona residents need to obtain a “court clearance receipt” or “court abstract form” from the court. This shows the case‘s complaint number, violation code and date, and the final disposition code and date.
Then the person should take the court document to any MVD service center. It may be necessary to pay both an application fee and reinstatement fee before the license will be reinstated. Depending on the case, it may be possible to complete this process online. Learn more at the MVD Suspension website.
Learn more about Arizona warrants.