How Do I Resolve a Bench Warrant in New York City? The Process

How Do I Resolve a Bench Warrant in New York City? The Process

Dealing with a bench warrant in New York City can be scary and overwhelming. I totally get it – you probably have a ton of questions about what it means and what your options are. The good news is there are steps you can take to resolve the warrant, and people who can help guide you through the process.

What is a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant is basically an arrest warrant that is issued by a judge when you miss a court appearance or violate a court order. Some common reasons a bench warrant might get issued against you in NYC include:

  • Missing a court date
  • Not showing up for a hearing
  • Not complying with something the judge ordered you to do, like completing a drug treatment program
  • Not paying fines related to a conviction

If there’s an active warrant out for you, that means the police can arrest you at any time and bring you before the court to deal with the issue. It’s basically the judge’s way of saying “I told you to come to court and you didn’t, so now I’m ordering the police to arrest you and drag you in here. “Obviously getting picked up by the cops unexpectedly can be really disruptive to your life. You could end up sitting in jail until your case gets sorted out, which no one wants. So that’s why it’s important to take care of a warrant ASAP.

Checking for Active Warrants in NYC

The first thing you’ll want to do is confirm whether you actually have an active bench warrant or not. There are a few ways to check:

  • Call the courthouse: The court that issued the warrant will have a record of all active warrants related to cases there. Give them a call and inquire.
  • Contact your defense lawyer: If you have a lawyer representing you for the case the warrant is connected to, they can look into it and let you know if there’s an active warrant.
  • Do an online search: There are online warrant search websites that compile warrant data nationwide from public records. Just search your name and NYC to see if anything comes up.

If there is an active warrant, don’t panic. There are options for taking care of it without getting arrested out of the blue.

Turning Yourself In on the Warrant

One route is to turn yourself in on the warrant. This means arranging to go to the court or police station and surrendering to resolve the issue. Here’s how it works:

  • Contact your lawyer: If you have a lawyer, get their advice on the best way to go about turning yourself in. They can walk you through the process.
  • Go to the courthouse: In some cases you may be able to go straight to the courthouse and turn yourself in on the warrant there. You’ll be briefly detained until they bring you before the judge.
  • Go to the police: Another option is going to the nearest police precinct and turning yourself in on the warrant. They’ll likely detain you for a bit until officers transport you to the court for a hearing.

The advantage of voluntarily surrendering on the warrant is that you can prepare yourself mentally, arrange time off work, and line up childcare or pet care. It also looks better to the judge that you made an effort to take care of the issue rather than trying to evade it.

Getting the Warrant Vacated

Another way to resolve a bench warrant is by getting it withdrawn, or “vacated”. This means filing a request with the court to cancel the warrant before you turn yourself in. Reasons a judge may agree to vacate a warrant include:

  • You didn’t get proper notice of the court date you missed
  • You have proof you were hospitalized on the day you missed court
  • You provide evidence the warrant is based on mistaken identity
  • Vacating the warrant is “in the interest of justice”

To request a warrant recall in NYC:

  • Contact your attorney to file the paperwork asking the judge to vacate the warrant.
  • Draft a letter to the judge explaining the circumstances and why the warrant should be recalled. Provide any evidence that supports your case.
  • Request a hearing to argue for the warrant to be vacated before turning yourself in.

If the judge agrees to vacate the warrant, the police will remove it from the system so you don’t have to worry about the threat of arrest anymore.

Negotiating After Voluntary Surrender

A third option is to turn yourself in on the warrant and then try to negotiate with the prosecutor afterward. For example, your lawyer may be able to work out a deal where the charges get dropped or reduced once you’ve surrendered. Or you may be able to plead guilty to resolve the case quickly rather than fighting the charges. Some things that could potentially be negotiated after surrendering on a warrant include:

  • Getting the penalties or fines lowered
  • Having the charges downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor
  • Entering into a diversion program rather than getting convicted
  • Getting credit for time served so you don’t have to spend any additional days in jail

Obviously having an experienced criminal defense lawyer help with these negotiations is important for getting the best resolution.

Consequences of Ignoring a Bench Warrant

While it might be tempting to stick your head in the sand and pretend the warrant doesn’t exist, that’s usually not a wise move. The risks of ignoring a warrant include:

  • Getting arrested at home, work, during a traffic stop – basically anywhere at any time
  • Having to sit in jail until your case gets sorted out
  • Potentially facing harsher penalties and fines for evading the warrant
  • Having a warrant conviction on your record which can limit job opportunities, loans etc.

So while dealing with a warrant proactively can be nerve-wracking, handling it voluntarily on your terms is much less disruptive than being arrested unexpectedly. And it shows the court you’re taking responsibility rather than dodging it.

Getting a Lawyer’s Help is Crucial

Trying to handle a bench warrant completely on your own is usually extremely difficult, if not impossible. Rules vary so much between courts that it’s hard to navigate the process without a lawyer’s expertise. Here are some of the key ways having a lawyer can help:

  • They know the procedures, rules and judges inside out
  • They can negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf
  • They can request hearings and file motions you wouldn’t know how to do
  • They can advocate to get penalties and fines reduced
  • They provide guidance on the best approach based on your situation

So while you may hesitate to take on the cost of a lawyer, in the long run their help can save you money, time and major headaches. Public defenders are also an option if you can’t afford private counsel. Check out this guide on finding criminal lawyers in NYC or these tips on hiring the best defense attorney to handle your warrant situation. It makes the process much less intimidating.

Resolving Bench Warrants for Traffic Tickets

If your warrant is connected to unpaid NYC traffic tickets, there’s a specialized process for handling it:

  • Confirm you have a traffic warrant by searching the Traffic Violations Bureau (TVB) website or calling the TVB clerk.
  • Pay the total amount due on the tickets to recall the warrant immediately. The court may vacate the warrant once paid.
  • Request a hearing to try to reduce what you owe or have the tickets dismissed.
  • Sign up for a payment plan through the TVB if you can’t afford to pay the full fine right away. This may also get the warrant dropped.

So if it’s unpaid traffic tickets that led to your warrant, taking care of what you owe the TVB is the fastest way to get rid of it. Here’s a full guide on dealing with NYC traffic warrants.

Final Tips for Resolving Bench Warrants

To wrap things up, here are a few final pointers on taking care of warrants:

  • Don’t ignore them – be proactive about resolving it
  • Seek legal help to navigate the process and negotiate on your behalf
  • Consider turning yourself in to take control of the situation
  • File to get the warrant vacated if there are good grounds to do so
  • Handle traffic warrants separately through the TVB
  • Prepare for some disruptions to your work/family life while it gets sorted

And if you have any other questions about bench warrants in the city, don’t hesitate to ask! The most important thing is taking care of it before the police surprise you with an unexpected arrest. With some help and preparation, you can get the matter resolved and move forward.


What is a Bench Warrant? –

Checking for Warrants by Phone –