A 38-year-old client was surprised to see his own attorney accused of having an inactive license to practice law due to the fact that a warrant was out for his arrest. The 48-year-old lawyer from Ross claims that the charges against him, related to identity theft and possession of methamphetamine paraphernalia (CA Health and Safety Code 11364(a)), are false and that he will soon be exonerated. Oddly, the lawyer and his client were both forced to remain in custody for a time, in the same jail in San Mateo. He further claims that he was not acting as his client’s attorney while in court, but only as a witness until another attorney could be found. This, of course, may serve to be an unexpected moment of grace for his unwitting client.
This attorney exhibited a good amount of what some would call gall in showing up to court knowing that he would likely be brought to jail. In particular, brings up the notion of ‘bench warrants,’ which are commonly issued in courts all across the nation. A ‘bench warrant’s’ name comes from the fact that this is a kind of warrant issued ‘from the bench,’ or by a judge. Bench warrants are quite different than other types of warrants, like arrest warrants or search warrants, because they are not issued in relation to any criminal act.
There are, however, many reasons why a bench warrant might be issued: an individual may have neglected to pay a particular fine or other costs associated with the court; an individual may have failed to appear in court at the appropriately appointed time; or the individual may have ignored a court order, failing to participate or complete community service obligations, DUI classes, or pretty much anything else that the court has ordered and they have failed to follow through with. Ignoring a bench warrant, even if it is issued for something as simple as failing to appear in court due to a traffic violation, can end in severe penalties. For example, an individual could end up spending time in county jail or state prison, incur additional fines, or even have their driver’s license suspended. It is thus important for anyone, including attorneys, who are often considered to be a respected extension of the justice system, to pay close attention to any bench warrants issued that concern them.