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What Is a Bench Warrant?

What Is a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant is used to summon a defendant to their trial if they do not respond to the original request to appear. Keep reading to learn more.

South Carolina Law

A bench warrant is a form of process issued "from the bench" or from the judge for the arrest of a person who does not respond to a summons for court. South Carolina law requires all arrest and search warrants to be issued according to the Attorney General’s examples and defines bench warrants as ". . . not being arrest warrants per se, are not required to be in such form.

Regardless of how a warrant is formatted, it cannot replace a formal conviction. The process used to bring a defendant to court for a charge or another purpose must follow an initial summons served by the court. In other words, if the defendant receives the first summons and does not respond then a bench warrant can be issued. Bench warrants may not be issued before an arrest warrant or summons to court.

Examples of instances where bench warrants might be issued are:

  • When the defendant fails to appear before the court
  • When the defendant, after being issued a sentence, fails to comply
  • When the defendant is tried during their absence and must comply
  • When a witness fails to respond to a subpoena

If the defendant fails to appear and the court issues a bench warrant, there must be a process of investigation to determine the reason for their absence.

Additional Consequences

It is important to note that bench warrants are accessible to the public which means employers, landlords, coworkers, and others can access the records of the warrant and the reason it was issued.

Background checks are necessary for employment and other privileges. For example, most rental properties require a background check from all potential tenants. Additionally, most colleges and universities need students to complete a background check before receiving financial aid or being accepted.

Criminal charges and bench warrants are a matter of public record and can ruin your future opportunities.

Entrust Your Case To Us

The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC is dedicated to helping our clients pursue the most optimal result. We have extensive knowledge and experience with a variety of cases from warrants to fraud and more. Our team of accomplished attorneys has helped countless clients protect their freedom and we never back down from a difficult case. If you have been issued a bench warrant, our team can fight for your right to court and help prevent additional charges.

Contact our firm to find out how we can fight for you.


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