How to Quash a Bench Warrant

By Dale Marshall - Updated June 15, 2017
court house interior

A bench warrant is issued by a judge to compel a person to obey a previously issued court order. While the specifics vary among the states, quashing a bench warrant is usually a matter of setting a new date for the court appearance or otherwise complying with the court’s orders.

The Bench Warrant

Unlike search and arrest warrants, which are issued by a judge on the request of law enforcement, a bench warrant is issued directly by a judge. It orders police to arrest the individual and bring him or her before the judge. In practical effect, it’s no different from an arrest warrant, because law enforcement officers will seek to find and arrest the defendant. Judges in both civil and criminal courts may issue bench warrants.

Bench warrants are issued for failure to obey a court order. In many cases, this means that the defendant named on the warrant failed to appear in court pursuant to a subpoena. They are also issued against people who have failed to comply with a other types of court orders, such as an order to pay child support.

Quashing the Bench Warrant

You can avoid the hassle of being arrested by going to court and moving to have the warrant quashed. From a legal perspective, quashing a warrant nullifies or revokes it. In most cases, all that’s necessary to have a bench warrant quashed is to explain to the judge the reasons for not appearing or for not complying with a court order. This may involve setting a new appearance date or making a pledge to comply. The sooner you act, the more likely you are to have the bench warrant removed and avoid arrest.

From a procedural standpoint, a written motion, prepared in the form required by the court, is required to quash the warrant. Your attorney will prepare the form and submit it to the court when you make your appearance.

If you are representing yourself, call the clerk of the court for guidance on how to prepare the necessary paperwork, including when and how to submit it to the judge. Many jurisdictions provide the forms for motions to quash a bench warrant on their websites.

Appearing in Court

Once the paperwork is filed, make sure you are there for the court appearance. A judge won't be very sympathetic if you repeatedly miss court appearances. If your documentation for your excuse wasn't already attached to the motion, make sure you have it readily available at your appearance. Have extra copies ready for the judge; this is a small gesture showing you respect the time an protocol of the court.

Filing a Motion

Documentation makes it as easier for a judge to look at the motion to quash and decide in your favor. The judge is looking for a reasonable reason why you did not show up to court in the first place. These reasons might include, but aren't limited to, a medical emergency or significant transportation issue that prevented your appearance in court the first time. Documentation might include hospital or medical records or tow and repair bills for your car.

About the Author

Dale Marshall began writing for Internet clients in 2009. He specializes in topics related to the areas in which he worked for more than three decades, including finance, insurance, labor relations and human resources. Marshall earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of Connecticut.

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