Bench warrant in Richland County? What should you do now?
The Fifth Circuit Solicitor’s Office (Richland County Solicitor) is holding a “Fifth Circuit Bench Warrant Resolution Court” event on August 31, September 1, September 7, and September 8, 2021, at Trinity Educational Community Center, 2521 Richland Street, Columbia, SC 29204.
This is only for people who have 1) non-violent felony bench warrants for missed court dates and 2) child support warrants – if you appear, your bench warrant will be lifted and you will not be arrested (not that day, anyway).
We recommend that you do not appear without an attorney and that you consult with your attorney before showing up – if your bench warrant is for a violent offense or some other offense not listed, the solicitors’ office’s catchy flier doesn’t say you won’t be arrested…
And check out that cool flier; it almost looks like a concert flier. * Masks Required for Entry. *
Let’s talk about bench warrants. Below, you will find information on:
- What you should do if you have a bench warrant in SC,
- What a bench warrant is,
- How you find out if you have a bench warrant,
- How you got yourself a bench warrant, and
- How bench warrants work in the lower courts and General Sessions Court.
What Should You Do If You Have a Bench Warrant in SC?
What should you do if you have a bench warrant in SC? You might think the answer is, “turn yourself in,” but… no.
Not just yet anyway.
First, call your attorney. If you don’t have an attorney, now is the time to get one and quickly. If you have just discovered that you have a bench warrant, you are in one of two situations:
You have been arrested on your bench warrant, and now you are in jail with no bond, feeling pretty hopeless. Your attorney needs to step in, attempt to negotiate with the solicitor’s office to get your warrant lifted and file a motion to lift your bench warrant if the prosecutor will not or cannot consent.
Or you haven’t been arrested yet, but you could be arrested any day now. If you have any contact with law enforcement, they will see that a warrant has been entered into NCIC and they will take you into custody. A sheriff’s deputy may show up at your house or even at your job to take you into custody at any time.
If you contact your criminal defense attorney (or retain an attorney) immediately, your attorney may be able to file a motion to lift your bench warrant, get a hearing scheduled before you are arrested, and explain to the court 1) why you did not appear at your court date and 2) that your attorney will make sure you know when your court dates are from here on out.
You will have to appear, and, if the judge does not lift your bench warrant at the hearing, you will be arrested then. But – in most cases, if it is the first time it has happened and there is a reasonable explanation, the court will lift the warrant.
One thing is certain – if you do not appear at a hearing to lift your bench warrant, you will be arrested and jailed without bond sooner or later.
What is a Bench Warrant?
A bench warrant is an arrest warrant that authorizes law enforcement to take you into custody wherever you are and transport you to the jail until the underlying issue (failure to appear, usually) is resolved.
What if I’m in Another State?
If you are picked up on what is called a “fugitive warrant” in another state, you may spend weeks in jail, without the possibility of bond, before you are transported back to SC to appear before a judge. Once you get here, you may spend more weeks in jail waiting for a hearing.
Get an attorney to help you resolve the fugitive warrant now, before you get picked up.
How Do I Find Out if I Have a Bench Warrant in SC?
Most people find out as a sheriff’s deputy is putting handcuffs on them…
Your attorney may be able to call the warrants division at the sheriff’s department or the prosecutor’s office to find out if you have a warrant, but, if you call, they may not tell you because they do not want you to evade arrest.
Call your criminal defense lawyer, or retain a defense attorney, and let them 1) find out whether you have a bench warrant and 2) help you to get the bench warrant lifted if possible.
Failure to Appear and a Bench Warrant – How Did That Happen?
Most bench warrants are issued because you did not appear at a required court date (including roll calls). The most common reasons for bench warrants are:
- Failure to appear in court,
- Not paying a fine after magistrate court or municipal court conviction,
- Failing to pay court-ordered child support, or
- Violations of bond conditions.
Bench Warrants in the Magistrate and Municipal Courts
If you miss an initial court date in the magistrate or municipal court, you will usually be found guilty in your absence and the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you are ordered to pay fines or restitution after a lower court conviction and you do not pay the fine, the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you have criminal charges (including traffic violations) in the magistrate or municipal court, call a criminal defense lawyer immediately – your attorney may 1) appear for you on your initial court date, or 2) request a jury trial before your initial court date so you do not have to appear.
Bench Warrants in General Sessions Court
If you are charged with a crime in General Sessions Court, you will have roll call dates.
(The solicitor’s office doesn’t like to call it that. Instead, they now call it “first appearance” and “second appearance.” They also don’t like it when we call it “cattle call.”)
If you don’t appear at a roll call date – either the first or second cattle call or a subsequent cattle call that you received notice for – they will issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you have a defense lawyer working on your case, we can often get you excused from roll call – talk to your defense attorney, know your court dates, and do not miss a court date unless your attorney has confirmed that you are excused.
SC Criminal Defense Lawyers in Richland County, Columbia, Horry County, and Myrtle Beach
The criminal defense attorneys at the Thompson & Hiller Defense Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense cases in SC. We have obtained dismissals, pre-trial diversion resulting in dismissals, or acquittals following trial in hundreds of criminal cases, and we have a record of proven results.
If you have been charged with a crime in SC or if you think you may be under investigation, call us now at 843-444-6122 or contact us through our website for a free initial consultation to find out if we can help.