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INFORMATION FOR DEFENDANT'S WITH WARRANTS
How do I avoid getting a warrant?
The best way to avoid a warrant is to appear in court as ordered. When you receive a traffic or criminal citation, you are signing a promise to appear without admitting guilt to the offenses charged on the ticket. You are given fourteen days from the date you receive the citation to appear at the court. If you fail to appear within the fourteen days, you may have a warrant issued for your arrest. If you are charged with a crime which does not require you to personally appear, a warning letter may be mailed to your address as listed on the citation. Failing to appear in court on your citation can lead to a significant increase in any fines imposed upon your conviction. In addition, a separate criminal charge, punishable by up to six months in jail and fines and assessments of up to $1,882. You can be convicted of the crime of failing to appear even if you are found not guilty of the underlying offense.
Do I have a Warrant for my arrest?
You may call the Court Clerk to inquire if you have an active warrant. Warrants are issued when you miss a court date or when the government is unable to find you.
Why do I have a Bench Warrant?
Bench warrants are issued when a defendant fails to appear in court as ordered. If you missed a court date, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
Why are you ordering my arrest when I am "presumed innocent until proven guilty?"
You are presumed innocent of the criminal accusation against you regardless of the bench warrant. However, this presumption does not allow you to simply ignore the accusations. Generally, the court will not proceed with your case without your presence. The court prefers individuals to appear as ordered voluntarily. However, if a person will not appear voluntarily, the court has the responsibility to get you to come to court.
Do I have to go to jail?
Reporting to the jail is one way to clear a warrant. If you do report to the jail, you can expect to be held in custody until you: 1) post bail; 2) qualify for release on your own recognizance; or 3) are transported for a court hearing.
What if I don’t want to go to jail?
The best way to avoid jail is to show up for court when ordered. If you have already missed court, you can avoid going to jail by posting security (bail) with the court. Your warrant will list the bail amount. You may post "Cash Bail" or a bail bond as security unless the warrant is "cash only". Bail bonding companies are listed in the yellow pages phone book. They can, for a fee, assist you in posting a bond to guarantee your attendance in court.
"Cash Bail" may be posted at the court or at the jail. "Cash Bail" can be deposited in the form of U.S. currency; Cashier’s Checks; or Money Orders. Personal checks will not be accepted for bench warrant security.
What is "bail" and why do I have to post it?
"Bail" (both Cash and Bond) is security against your future attendance. If you fail to appear, your bail can be forfeited to the City of Smithfield. In other words, if you posted $1,000 cash as security and subsequently failed to appear, the court may order that the $1,000 be given to the city. Bail is not required to be credited toward your fine. If you appear as ordered, your cash bail may be returned to you or your bail bond may be exonerated.
You should understand that if you are booked into jail on your warrant, your case will be scheduled at the next available court date. It may take up to 13 days for your case to be heard. You may post bail to be released from jail before your case is heard. To minimize the amount time you have to spend in jail, you, or someone on your behalf, should call the court immediately to ensure that we are aware that you have been booked.
What if I can’t post bail?
You may be required to post bail or held in custody if the court is not satisfied that you will appear for subsequent hearings as ordered.
Why is my bail so high? Isn’t it higher than my fine?
Bail and fines are generally two separate issues. A fine is imposed after conviction as punishment for an offense. Bail is simply security to ensure that you will show up in court when ordered. You usually start without having to post any bail at all. You simply sign a citation promising to appear in court. Once you’ve missed court, a warrant is issued and bail is set. The amount of the bail is determined by the judge. It is usually set in an amount which the judge determines is enough to ensure you will show up at court. If you show up, the bail can be exonerated and returned to you or it may be held to ensure future court appearances.
Smithfield Municipal Justice Court