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A bench warrant is issued by a judge when a person with a pending criminal case violates the rules of the court. Sometimes a warrant is issued for violating pre-trial release conditions. Most often, people with bench warrants simply have failed to show up for a scheduled court appearance. Once a bench warrant is issued, the police can treat it like any other warrant and use it to arrest people and keep them in jail, until the appear back in front of a judge.
• Make sure that your lawyer has an accurate address and phone number for you. Immediately notify the office if this information changes. Contact your lawyer as soon as you get a letter from the office advising you to do so and show up for your scheduled appointments.
• When you are in jail, avoid discussing the facts of your case with others, visitors, and people you call on the phone (other than Whatcom County Public Defender employees). Remember: All non-law-office calls from the Whatcom County Jail are recorded and may be used against you in trial or as the basis for additional criminal charges against you.
• When you are in jail, do not send letters discussing your case to anyone, as letters may be intercepted by law enforcement and used against you at trial. Avoid discussing the facts of your case in postal mail and emails.
• Provide your lawyer with a list of potential witnesses as soon as possible, with accurate telephone numbers where they may be reached at least and addresses where they can receive mail if possible.
• Come to all your court dates. Unless your lawyer has told you personally that you are excused, you must come to court when the court order says. If you miss court, even if you might have a good excuse, there can be serious consequences, including being arrested and charged with a new crime. You may be inconvenienced by missing work or changing a medical appointment, but your boss or your doctor can’t have you arrested if you don’t show up. A judge can, and will put you in jail and possibly keep you there, if you don’t appear in court as ordered.
• Be on time for court.
• Dress for court as seriously as you would for a job interview or for any other appointment that could affect your future.