When a person who is charged with a DUI, or any crime for that matter, does not show up for court as directed, more often than not a bench warrant for that individual’s arrest will be issued. The person may very well have had a valid reason for missing court. In fact, the person, due to change in address, mail or clerical error, may have never even received the summons to appear. Regardless, if the court had not previously excused the absence, it will assume that proper notice was received. In most cases, the judge will then issue the warrant.
A bench warrant authorizes the arrest of the individual who has missed court by any Washington peace officer. Every warrant that is issued by the court is defined by a specific monetary amount. The way that amount is determined is particular to each judge. Generally, the amount set is based upon the individual’s criminal history, the seriousness of the crime charged, the person’s warrant history, prior absences from court on that particular charge, and the individual discretion of the judge. If the person is arrested, he will be held until either bail is posted on his behalf or until he appears before the judge to explain the circumstances of the missed court date.
If you or someone you know has missed a court date and there is an outstanding warrant, there are several ways to get it quashed. The first, and likely the simplest way, is to have the bail posted. This can be done with no need for approval from the issuing judge and without risk of incarceration. It is accomplished in one of two ways. One is to post the cash amount directly with the court. The court then holds on to the bail money until the case is either resolved or until the judge releases the bail money, whichever occurs sooner. The second is to have a bail bondsman post a bond guaranteeing the bail amount to the court should the person fail to appear in the future. In this case, the person would pay a fee to the bonding company (generally 10% of the bail amount plus the occasional processing fee) and provide collateral in the amount of the bail. The fee is non-refundable, but for large bail amounts it will allow a person to remain free and continue working while the case is pending.
Another way to have the warrant quashed is to appear before the court to explain the circumstances of the absence. Unless you are supremely confident that the court will accept the excuse and quash the warrant, it is not advisable to try the without the assistance of a lawyer. The policies between courts and even judges within the same court vary widely regarding the quashing of warrants. Some courts simply require you to appear at the front counter and sign for a new date. Others make you sign up to appear at a later date to see the judge who issued the warrant in order to explain your original absence. Certain courts require that the reason for the absence be provided in writing. And some will not quash the warrant under any circumstance and will simply require the person to either post the bail or turn themself in.
When in doubt, there is nothing wrong with calling the court to see what the policy is or what needs to be done to quash the warrant, given your circumstances. If there is any question as to how to proceed, contact a DUI lawyer that practices in that jurisdiction. The lawyer should know the policies of that court. At Milios Defense, we are familiar with the warrant quashing policies of practically every court in Washington State. Do not hesitate to contact one of our Washington DUI lawyers for assistance.