New York Bench Warrants and Bail Modification or Revocation

Prior to 2020, even over the objection of your criminal defense attorney, if you failed to appear in court on a scheduled date, New York judges would routinely, and almost by default, issue warrants. Often referred to as “bench warrants,” judges could issue one even if you had a legitimate reason for missing your appearance date due to a medical problem, family emergency or employment. To be clear, that is not to say courts were not always unreasonable even if prosecutors sought your immediate arrest. Sometimes all parties agreed that such an order should be stayed, meaning, the it would not be lodged if you returned as agreed sometime in the future. Other times, the appearance would be merely rescheduled upon your counsel’s appearance in court with, for example, note from a healthcare provider. That said, no longer do you have to rely on rational, compassionate and understanding judges and prosecutors. Simply, bail laws in New York have drastically changed to the benefit of the accused.

Legal Requirements for Issuance

As a preliminary matter, warrants can be ordered by a judge whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor and irrespective of the nature of the underlying offense. Before ordering one due to your failure to appear other than as a result of a new arrest, the presiding judge is required to give you or your bench warrant lawyer notice of his or her intent. Upon doing so, the court must then provide you forty-eight (48) hours to voluntarily appear, aka, return on your own accord. Only after and if you do not show, can the judge hand down its decision to issue the warrant. CPL 510.50(2). The exception to this rule is if the court determines there is “credible evidence” demonstrating that your failure to appear was willful.

Modifying Bail Upon Your Return on a Bench Warrant

Even after a bench warrant is ordered for your failure to appear during the forty-eight (48) hour time frame, before modifying or revoking the conditions of your release he or she must conduct a bail hearing upon your return to court. At this hearing, the court is tasked with determining whether clear and convincing evidence exists that your conduct was both persistent and willful. CPL 530.60(2)(b).

Ultimately, if there is an adverse finding, new and more stringent conditions can be imposed. However, the principle of the least restrictive conditions still applies. That is, the judge must make a specific finding in your case with your set of circumstances as argued by your counsel that what ever measure is the least intrusive to ensure your return to court is the appropriate modification if any. The default response can no longer be the setting of bail and to do so in an amount that is tantamount to remand. In fact, your counsel could argue that the fact that you returned to court upon learning of the hearing or were present for the actual hearing despite missing prior scheduled dates, no new measures would be necessary. Why? Because, as obvious as it may seem, you have in fact returned to court. If you are successful, then the warrant should be vacated and the conditions of your release should remain the same.

Your Case, Your Defense Your Future

Your right to a bail revocation hearing is an important one and a skilled attorney cam make the difference between more restrictive conditions that have significantly negative impact on your life or the maintenance of the status quo. In fact, your counsel may successfully argue that either one or two missed court dates should not even trigger the ordering of a warrant and breach the willful and persistent threshold even if the court initially held as such. Further, because a judge can only hold you in remand status for up to seventy-two (72) hours if you are charged initially with a violent felony offense, fighting to allow you to remain free pending a hearing is critical.

Failing to adhere to the instructions of your release – whether returning to court as required or adhering to judicially ordered requirements – can have considerable consequences to your liberty and the trajectory of your case. However, no matter what prosecutors seek and irrespective of the ramifications you may face, do not let the District Attorney or an overzealous judge usurp your rights.

Protect your liberty and future before matters cascade from bad to worse. Seek out the advocacy, experience and knowledge of the defense team and former prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC.

If you need help with bail related matters, contact us online or call (212) 312-7129 today.

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