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Can I be arrested in California if I have a misdemeanor bench warrant from out of state?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Aug 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

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It is possible for a person to be arrested in California if he has a misdemeanor bench warrant from out of state.

The fact that a judge issues a bench warrant against a person typically gets put into an interstate computer network. This means that the warrant will show up out of state if the police check the person's background.

If the party is stopped, therefore, in California, and the warrant from the other state shows up, the party can be arrested and held until the warrant state decides whether to extradite him back.

Under California law, extradition refers to the legal process of returning a "fugitive from justice" back to the state in which he allegedly committed a crime or became the subject of a bench warrant. There are two types of California extradition. These are:

  1. extradition into California, and
  2. extradition from California.

Note that a judge authorizes a bench warrant usually because a party has failed to:

  • appear in court,
  • pay a fine, or
  • obey a court order.

A bench warrant authorizes law enforcement personnel to arrest the person named in the warrant and bring him directly to court.

Is an arrest likely if a person in California has a bench warrant from a different state?

If police discover that a person in California has a bench warrant from a different state, then officers can arrest him.

But note that the state that issued the warrant may not want to extradite the person back. If this is the case, the party that gets arrested will be released from custody.

What is extradition?

The term extradition refers to the legal process of transporting suspected or convicted criminals from one state to another when that person has allegedly fled from the criminal justice system.

As a result,

  • the individual is known as a "fugitive from justice",
  • the state from where he fled is known as the "home" or "demanding" state, and
  • the location to where he fled is known as the asylum state.

What is extradition from California?

Extradition from California refers to the situation in which a person commits a crime from another state, or is subject to another state's bench warrant, and then goes to California. In this case, if the home state wants to punish or penalize the party, they will send agents from the state to the asylum state to bring the party back to “home” territory.

Please note that even if a demanding state opts for extradition, California will not automatically release the person in custody to the other state.

California law first requires that California:

  • receive a proper demand from the home state, and
  • conduct a probable cause / identification hearing to ensure that the party is not being falsely accused or improperly subject to extradition.

What is extradition into California?

Extradition into California refers to the situation where a person allegedly:

  • commits a crime,
  • escapes imprisonment, or
  • becomes subject to a bench warrant,

and then for whatever reason flees the state, and California demands that the person be extradited back.

But note that before California demands a person's return, it must weigh the time and expense of bringing the person back to the state against the severity of the crime/violation of which he was accused. If it decides that extradition is appropriate, there is a series of steps that it must then follow in order to secure a person's extradition into California.

What is a bench warrant?

A “bench warrant” (sometimes referred to as a "body attachment") is the most common type of warrant issued in California. It is issued from “the bench,” which means the judge. These warrants are not issued because of suspected criminal activity. Rather, a judge authorizes a warrant typically because a party has failed to:

  • appear in court,
  • pay a fine, or
  • obey a court order.

A California bench warrant authorizes law enforcement personnel to arrest the person named in the warrant and bring him directly to court.

Can a bench warrant be dropped and what is the best way to recall one?

Most California courts will not recall or drop a bench warrant on their own. If a party is subject to this warrant, then he must work to get it cleared. Clearing a bench warrant is also referred to as “recalling” or “quashing” one. Quashing a bench warrant means having it cleared from California's judicial system.

A party must appear in court in order to recall a warrant.

A person can have his attorney appear in court on the person's behalf, provided that:

  • the party failed to appear for a court appearance, or
  • the party failed to make a payment in connection with a misdemeanor offense.

If, though, a person failed to obey a court order that arose out of a felony case, the party must be present in court personally (with or without an attorney) in order to clear a warrant.

In trying to quash a bench warrant, a party (or his attorney) can try to do so by arguing that:

  1. he never received a notice to appear in court,
  2. he complied with all the conditions and requirements within a court order,
  3. he was unaware that a case had been filed, and/or,
  4. there has been a mistake in identity.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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