In Colorado, if you defy a rule or order of the court, the judge may issue a bench warrant. This is an order that directs law enforcement to locate you, detain you, and bring you to court to appear before the judge. Bench warrants are common if you miss a required court date, fail to pay a fine, or violate the terms of a protective order.
An outstanding bench warrant can result in an
- being held in jail,
- fines, and even lead to
- the loss of your driver’s license.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is a Colorado bench warrant?
- 2. Why did I get a bench warrant?
- 3. How do I quash a bench warrant?
- 4. What happens if I don’t take care of my bench warrant?
- 5. If I go to court to quash a bench warrant, will I still go to jail?
Also see our related articles on arrest warrants in Colorado and search warrants in Colorado.
1. What is a Colorado bench warrant?
After an arrest, traffic ticket, or other violation, you may be given notice of a date and time to appear in court. If you fail to appear (FTA), a bench warrant may be issued by the court.
The bench warrant allows the police to take you into custody until you can appear before the court. This is similar to an arrest warrant in Colorado, but is issued directly from a judge.
With a bench warrant for minor offenses or traffic violations, the police may not
- actively search for you, or
- go to your home or place of business.
Instead, your name may be entered into a statewide database. If you have any contact with the police, such as a speeding ticket, your name will show up and the police will take you into custody until you can post bail.1
2. Why did I get a bench warrant?
Most people who get a bench warrant do so because they failed to appear in court for a minor violation or court hearing. This includes traffic violations and municipal violations or failing to appear for an arraignment or sentencing.
A bench warrant can also be issued for
- failing to appear for jury service,
- not paying a court-ordered fine, or
- violating a court order by not paying child support.
If you do not show up in court on the specified date or time, you may get a bench warrant.
In many cases, people with a bench warrant do not even know they have a warrant. If you get a traffic violation or are cited for some other offense, the court may send you a notice to appear in the mail.
However, if you have moved or have a problem getting regular mail service, you may have never learned about the court date. Even if you were aware of the court date,
- you may have forgotten about having to show up,
- an emergency situation prevented you from going, or
- you had to work and could not take the day off.
After failing to appear in court, a bench warrant may have been automatically issued. The court may or may not have sent a notice of the bench warrant, and even if they did, you may not have received the notice.
In most cases, the court is not interested in why you did not appear in court, even if it was because of a simple mix-up. You will be responsible for taking care of the bench warrant or face arrest.2
3. How do I quash a bench warrant?
Getting rid of a bench warrant is known as “quashing” or “recalling” a bench warrant. If you have a bench warrant, you need to take care of it as soon as possible so you will not be arrested or lose your license.
In order to quash a warrant, you or your attorney need to appear in court to take care of the matter. In many cases, your attorney can take care of your bench warrant without you having to appear in person.
Your attorney can file a motion to recall the warrant. Your attorney will then appear on your behalf, and ask the judge to quash the bench warrant. However, if you
- failed to appear on a felony charge, or
- have a history of failures to appear,
you may have to appear in person.
4. What happens if I don’t take care of my bench warrant?
If you are taken into custody on a bench warrant, you will have to post bail to be released. The bail amount may be set by the court, depending on a number of factors including
- your criminal history,
- history of failing to appear, and
- underlying violation.
The judge may also find you in contempt of court, resulting in possible jail time. Additionally, you may have to pay
- fees associated with issuing the warrant, and
- administrative court costs
before you will be released. Upon release, you may be given another court date and are required to appear on that date or else
- forfeit your bail amount and
- face another warrant.
A bench warrant can also result in losing your license. The court may notify the Colorado Motor Vehicle Division (DMV) when a bench warrant is issued for a traffic violation.
The DMV may then revoke your Colorado driver’s license. If you have a driver’s license issued by another state, the Colorado DMV may notify the other state to revoke your license.
If you are then pulled over by the police for a traffic violation, you could then face additional charges for driving on a suspended license.
5. If I go to court to quash a bench warrant, will I still go to jail?
If you missed your court date and go to court to take care of the problem, there is a chance you could be taken into custody. Many people avoid going to court to take care of a bench warrant because they don’t want to get arrested.
If you don’t go to court to take care of your warrant, you may be arrested. But if you do go to court to take care of your warrant, you may still be arrested.
If you go to court to take care of a bench warrant, the judge may
- quash the warrant and
- allow you to go free after you post bail and pay any court fees.
However, because there is a chance you could be taken into custody, it may be better for you to contact an attorney to handle it for you. Your attorney may be able to remove your bench warrant on your behalf.
If you have any questions about a bench warrant or would like to talk to a lawyer about your case, contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our Colorado criminal defense lawyers have years of experience protecting clients accused of all types of misdemeanor and felony criminal offenses.
Go back to our Colorado warrants information page.
Also see our article on Nevada bench warrants.
- See CRS 16-2-110; see, for example, Kinney v. People (2008) 187 P.3d 548.
- See, for example, People v. Antonio-Antimo (2000) 29 P.3d 298.