A bench warrant in Nevada is a court order for a criminal suspect to appear in court. Anybody with an active bench warrant risks getting arrested by police, especially during a traffic stop.
Nevada judges typically issue bench warrants if they believe that a person has defied the court, such as skipping out on a hearing or fine payment. Bench warrants are meant to motivate the people named in the warrant to go to court and take care of their case quickly.
The process of asking a judge to "quash" (remove) a bench warrant involves filing a request to schedule a court hearing. In most misdemeanor cases, the defendant does not have to personally appear at a bench warrant hearing as long as he/she has an attorney appear on his/her behalf.
On this page, our Las Vegas bench warrant attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about what Nevada bench warrants are and how to "quash" (get rid of) outstanding bench warrants so the defendant remains out of jail. Click on a topic to go to that section.
- 1. What are bench warrants in Nevada?
- 2. Why would I get a bench warrant in Nevada?
- 3. Will I get a bench warrant for missing court in Nevada?
- 4. What happens once I get a bench warrant in Nevada?
- 5. Will police search for me if I have a Nevada bench warrant?
- 6. How do I get my bench warrant quashed in Nevada?
- 7. Do I have to show up to my bench warrant hearing?
- 8. Can I be jailed if I go to court to quash a bench warrant?
- 9. What are the penalties for having a bench warrant in Nevada?
- 10. How is quashing a bench warrant different in California?
- 11. Can immigrants get bench warrants quashed in Nevada?
- 12. Do I have a warrant in Nevada?
Like an arrest warrant, a bench warrant authorizes police to arrest a particular person for illegal activity and bring him/her to court.1 But in most respects, bench warrants are different from arrest warrants:
Police have to formally ask judges to issue arrest warrants.2 In contrast, judges...called "the bench"...can issue bench warrants on their own without anyone having to request them.
And whereas arrest warrants herald the start of a criminal case, bench warrants can occur at any time throughout a case.
Judges typically issue bench warrants when they find a defendant in contempt of court.3 This is when the judge believes the defendant failed to follow proper judicial procedure.4
Common reasons a judge may find a defendant in contempt of court in Nevada are for:
- missing a court date (such as an arraignment, a status check, or a sentencing),
- ignoring a fine payment,
- not showing up to counseling,
- failing a drug test,
- not completing community service,5 and/or
- violating any other court order.6
Another time a Nevada judge may issue a bench warrant is when the defendant is not currently in custody but he/she has been named in an indictment7 or has already been convicted.8 Judges can also issue a bench warrant if a person refuses to testify before a grand jury.9
Note that Nevada judges are not allowed to issue bench warrants demanding a defendant to come to his/her preliminary hearing as long as private counsel shows up and files a waiver of the defendant's appearance.10 (A preliminary hearing is like a mini-trial that takes place in the early stages of felony cases.)
If a person is required to personally appear in court, the judge will probably issue a bench warrant if he/she is a no-show. Note that bench warrants are valid only if the judge issues them within fourteen (14) judicial days from the date the person allegedly failed to appear in court.11 If it is issued afterward, his/her attorney can get it recalled.
Also note that defendants rarely if ever have to show up to court as long as they have private counsel appearing in their place. In misdemeanor cases especially, defendants with private counsel usually never have to appear in court unless the case goes to trial.
The names of people with outstanding bench warrants are entered in a national database. Then any cop in any state can run the person's name through a warrant check and immediately arrest the person if his/her name comes up...
This situation typically happens during traffic stops: The person with an outstanding warrant commits a minor violation, such as failing to use a turn signal. A cop pulls the car over and runs a warrant check. When the driver's name comes up, the cop arrests the driver.
It depends. As long as the person is not facing felony charges, the police probably will not seek out the person. The bench warrant will remain outstanding until the person or his/her attorney goes to court to quash it.
Nevertheless, it is still vital to have the warrant quashed as soon as possible so the police no longer have license to apprehend the person on sight: If a cop happens to run a license plate number and sees that the driver has a warrant, the cop can pull over and arrest that person even if he/she did nothing else wrong.
If there is a bench warrant out for a person's arrest, his/her defense lawyer would first file "a motion to place on calendar a proceeding to recall or quash the warrant" with the proper Nevada court.
Then the clerk will set a new court date (usually two-to-five days later) for a bench warrant hearing. But note that the person can still be arrested during this waiting time up until the moment the judge quashes the warrant in open court.
At the bench warrant hearing, the defense attorney will appear in court and ask the judge to quash the bench warrant and eliminate the bail. The judge will usually quash the warrant unless the defendant has a history of missing court appearances and defying court orders.
It depends on the case. If the underlying case is a felony, the judge will almost always want the person to come to court as a condition of quashing the bench warrant.12
But if the person's underlying criminal case is for a misdemeanor, a defense attorney can usually get the warrant quashed without the person having to come to court him/herself. However, if the person has a history of missing court appearances, Nevada judges may require that the person personally appears in court before they consider quashing the warrant.
It depends. In the majority of cases, quashing bench warrants is a common, minor blip in a criminal case: Once the attorney appears in court on the specified date to quash the bench warrant, the judge typically grants the request and releases the defendant on O.R. (own recognizance) and exonerates the bail.13
But in some cases, the judge might still want to jail the person even when he/she appears personally in court to quash the warrant. This could occur if:
- the person has a lengthy criminal history, and/or
- the person is a flight risk, and/or
- if the person does not have a satisfactory excuse for the circumstances leading to the warrant being issued in the first place.
Possible arguments a Nevada criminal defense attorney may employ to coax a Nevada judge to quash a bench warrant include:
- that the person never received a notice to appear (such as if the summons was sent to a prior mailing address), or
- that the person was diligent in complying with every other court order related to the person's plea deal or probation, and he/she simply did not realize he/she was required to furnish the court with proof, or
- that the person was truly unaware of the case or genuinely believed that the charges had been dropped.
In sum, judges usually quash a defendant's bench warrant when he/she follows proper procedure to quash it. But note that judges still have the discretion to incarcerate anyone with a bench warrant. Consequently, a person is advised never to appear before a Nevada judge without counsel zealously advocating on his/her behalf.
As discussed above, bench warrants authorize law enforcement to arrest the person and hold him/her. Sometimes bench warrants are issued with bail, which means that a person can be released from jail following a bench warrant arrest as long as he/she pays the bail amount...
Sometimes bench warrants are issued with "no bail," which means that a person arrested on a bench warrant will remain jailed pending the next court appearance. The amount of bail is typically up to the discretion of the judge, who considers the person's criminal history and the underlying offense when calculating the amount.
But once the defense attorney appears to quash the bench warrant ... and as long as there are no extenuating circumstances ... the person will usually get released on his/her own recognizance and have the bail exonerated.
If a Nevada judge finds a person in contempt for disobeying a court order ... such as by not showing up to court or skipping out on a fine ... the court may sentence the person to:
- up to twenty-five (25) days in jail, and/or
- a $500 fine, and
- any other reasonable expenses and attorney's fees incurred by any party seeking to enforce the court order.14
Failing to pay an administrative fine also authorizes the Nevada DMV to suspend the person's drivers license.15
While a bench warrant is outstanding, higher courts such as the Nevada Supreme Court may refuse to hear any appeals the person files on his/her case.16 Las Vegas bench warrant attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Jill was convicted of battery domestic violence (BDV) in North Las Vegas Justice Court. After Jill did not show up to her sentencing date, the judge issues a bench warrant for her arrest. If Jill appeals the BDV case to the Clark County District Court, the court can decline to hear the appeal because of the outstanding bench warrant in North Las Vegas Justice Court.
- One to four (1 - 4) years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines
The judge may order probation in lieu of jail for failure to appear.17
In order to clear a California bench warrant, the person simply goes to the correct court clerk's office, asks the clerk to pull his/her case file, and appears before the judge minutes later. Although California residents have to appear in person to quash their bench warrants (unless they are for infractions), residents can quash their warrants the same day they learn about them during court hours.
Quashing a Nevada warrant is a more drawn out ordeal than in California. As explained above, Nevada defense attorneys first have to file a "motion to quash" with the court. Then the judge will not hear the motion until a few days later, during which the person can still be arrested.
Recall that in Nevada misdemeanor cases, the defense attorney can often appear in court on the defendant's behalf. In felony cases, the subject of the bench warrant may have to be present.18
Aliens can get their warrants quashed the same way U.S. citizens can, but there may be a deportation risk. Consequently, non-citizens with bench warrants are advised to contact local counsel who is skilled in the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada. They can try to ensure that the aliens' resident status will remain unaffected.
Some Nevada courts allow people to search online to check their warrant status. Some of these portals are:
- Las Vegas Municipal court warrant search
- Clark County case search (under case status, select "warrant")
- Henderson Municipal Court warrant list
- Henderson Justice Court warrant list
- North Las Vegas Municipal Court warrant search (under case status, select "warrant")
Otherwise, contact a criminal defense attorney to check your warrant status for you.
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...
Is there a "bench warrant" out for your arrest in Nevada? We invite you to have a FREE consultation with one of our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) today.
¿Habla español? Más información sobre las órdenes judiciales de detención inmediata en Nevada.
Also see our article on Colorado bench warrants.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys quash bench warrants and handle all other criminal matters throughout Clark and Washoe Counties, including Henderson, Boulder City, North Las Vegas, Mesquite, Laughlin, Goodsprings, Moapa, Moapa Valley, Bunkerville, Searchlight, Pahrump and Reno.
- NRS 173.155.
- NRS 171.106.
- NRS 22.010.
- NRS 22.040; see John S. Goldkamp, Michael D. White, Jennifer B. Robinson, Context and Change: The Evolution of Pioneering Drug Courts in Portland and Las Vegas (1991-1998), 23 Law & Pol'y 141 (2001) (mentions how Las Vegas drug courts employ bench warrants to keep defendants who are enrolled in the drug program in check and accountable).
- Jaeger v. State, 113 Nev. 1275, 948 P.2d 1185 (1997) (Judge issued a bench warrant where a defendant did not complete community service requirements).
- In re Mosely, 120 Nev. 908, 102 P.3d 555 (2004) (Judge issued a bench warrant where a defendant defied terms of a plea bargain).
- NRS 173.145.
- NRS 22.110.
- Benitez v. State, 111 Nev. 1363, 904 P.2d 1036 (1995) (Judge issued a bench warrant after a defendant was indicted, and defendant was unaware of the indictment); NRS 179.395.
- State v. Sargent, 122 Nev. 210, 216, 128 P.3d 1052, 1056 (2006) ("We . hold that where the defendant retains counsel who appears for him at a preliminary hearing, and when the defendant files a waiver of his personal appearance, a justice court lacks jurisdiction to order the defendant to personally appear. If the defendant or his counsel does not appear, the justice court would have authority to issue a bench warrant for his arrest.").
- See NRS 178.508.
- NRS 22.100.
- NRS 483.443.
- NRS 189.060.
- NRS 199.335.
- If out-of-state residents do get bench warrants in Nevada, Californians in particular should know that Nevada's bench warrant procedures differ from their home state's. With Sin City being a major tourist destination for partying, many out-of-state residents may find themselves facing with various Nevada charges such as DUI, trespass, disorderly conduct or unpaid casino markers during their travels here. Out-of-state residents are advised to retain local counsel in Las Vegas as soon as possible to manage their cases to avoid bench warrants.