Skip to Main Content

What is a Bench Warrant for Failure to Appear?

If you’ve been arrested on a bench warrant, you might have no idea what that means. In Texas, a judge can issue a court order for someone’s arrest; the police then search for the defendant and take him or her into custody.

Judges often issue bench warrants when someone violates Texas Penal Code § 38.10, which is the offense of Bail Jumping and Failure to Appear. If you’ve been arrested, contact our Houston criminal defense attorney for immediate assistance. We will defend you against accusations of failing to appear and can handle other aspects of your defense as well.

Violating Court Orders

Judges issue many orders, which they expect people to comply with. If you don’t, then the judge will usually issue a bench warrant. The prosecutor doesn’t request the warrant; the court does it on its own.

Judges require a person’s appearance for all sorts of reasons, such as an arraignment or trial. Most mandatory appearances relate to criminal charges, though it’s possible to show up for family law cases as well.

Failing to Appear

The crime of Failure to Appear involves knowingly missing a court appearance. In other words, you didn’t fail to appear accidentally or because of events beyond your control (such as a car crash which sent you to the emergency room). Instead, you knowingly or intentionally miss the scheduled court hearing.

Failure to Appear is typically a Class A misdemeanor in most cases. As punishment, you can face up to a year in jail and a fine. This punishment is in addition to whatever you received for the underlying offense which required your appearance in court.

However, if your appearance is for a crime with a fine as the only penalty, then your failure to appear is a Class C misdemeanor, which likewise will only result in a fine.

Conversely, if you were scheduled to appear on felony charges, then failing to appear is itself a third-degree felony. Penalties jump to 2-10 years in prison and a fine.

Defending Against a Bench Warrant

If you are arrested for failing to appear, we might make certain arguments. Under the law, it is not a violation if you had a “reasonable” excuse for not showing up. What’s reasonable, though, is not always clear. For example, it’s not reasonable to fail to show because you had an appearance in a different court at the same time. In that example, you should notify the judge of the conflict.

It’s also a defense if the required appearance is for parole, community supervision, or as part of an intermittent sentence.

Quashing a Bench Warrant

It’s possible to clear the warrant before you are arrested if you move fast enough. This is one reason to contact a Houston criminal defense attorney at Tad Nelson & Associates. We can appear in court and clear up the violation.Quashing a warrant has certain advantages. You can avoid the embarrassment of being arrested in public. You can also get into the good graces of the judge by explaining why you failed to appear at a hearing. Contact us today to schedule a time to talk.