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Posts Tagged ‘Bench Warrant’

28th April 2011

It recently came to this blogger’s attention that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has issued a new memorandum regarding the revocation of United States Passports by the United States Department of State. In order to better shed light upon this issue it may be best to quote directly from the interim USCIS memorandum itself:

DOS has authority to issue and revoke passports. Specifically, 22 U.S. Code (U.S.C.) 211a authorizes the Secretary of State and his or her designee (the U.S. Passport Office of the Bureau of Consular Affairs) to grant, issue, and verify passports. Through Executive Order No. 11295, 31 Fed. Reg. 10603, the President designated and empowered the Secretary of State with the authority to designate and prescribe the rules governing the granting, issuing, and verifying of passports.
DOS revokes passports in accordance with Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) sections 51.60-62, and 51.65. There are also several statutes under which passports may be revoked and that are incorporated into DOS’s regulations, including: 8 U.S.C. 1504 (the passport was illegally, fraudulently or erroneously obtained); 42 U.S.C. 652(k) (for non-payment of child support); 22 U.S.C. 2714 (for certain drug traffickers); 22 U.S.C. 2671(d)(3) (non-repayment of repatriation loan); and 22 U.S.C. 212a (adds authority to revoke passports of persons convicted of sex tourism). The regulations also require DOS to send written notification of the revocation of a passport to the bearer. See 22 CFR 51.65(a).

Clearly, as can be ascertained from the above citation, the Department of State is authorized to issue and revoke United States Passports. This can be of acute concern to those abroad with an outstanding warrant in the United States as Department of State officials routinely rescind passports upon finding that an American Citizen has a pending criminal warrant, fugitive warrant, or even a warrant in connection to domestic matters such as failure to pay American child support. Once a passport is revoked, an American may be issued a travel letter for the specific purpose of returning to the United States of America. For those unfamiliar with so-called travel letters it may be best to quote directly from the Foreign Affairs Manual:

Posts should issue travel letters only in rare or unusual circumstances described in this Appendix, where it is impossible to issue a passport. These circumstances include: (1) Law enforcement related travel letters in situations other than extradition. Such travel letters must be expressly authorized by CA/PPT/L/LA, which works with the U.S. law enforcement authority on matters related to revocation of the passport of the subject of an outstanding federal warrant. (See 7 FAM 1380 Passport Denial, Revocation, Restriction, Limitation and Surrender.)

Clearly, the Department of State only issues travel letters under rare circumstances, but US Passport revocation and travel letter issuance can occur especially in the context of Federal warrants. That said, the authority reserved to the Department of State regarding passport issuance and revocation would appear not to extend to the Department of Homeland Security‘s USCIS. To quote further from the USCIS memo cited above:

USCIS lacks the authority to revoke or confiscate a U.S. Passport. If reasons to doubt the validity of a passport come to the attention of USCIS, USCIS will not seize the passport, instruct the bearer to return the passport to DOS, or otherwise notify the bearer that there may be issues with the passport…In recent months, USCIS employees have on occasion informed customers that their U.S. Passports were invalid and should be surrendered to DOS. Upon review of certain cases, DOS determined that the passports were, in fact, valid and recognized in accordance with DOS policies and statutes. DOS has requested that USCIS direct any concerns regarding the validity of passports to DOS and not to the bearer of the passport.

It would seem from the quotation above as though the Department of State is in the best position to make a decision regarding the validity of a US Passport as such matters are within that Department’s bailiwick. As noted in the the US visa process, some matters pertaining to travel and immigration are bifurcated between the USCIS and the Department of State. Based upon the above memorandum and the Foreign Affairs Manual it would appear that Passport issues remain almost entirely within the Department of State’s mandate.

For related information please see: Arrest Warrant or Federal Warrant.

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18th July 2010

In a recent article, promulgated by The Nation Newspaper and distributed by the website ThaiVisa.com, it was announced that an American Citizen was arrested on money laundering charges on the Thai island of Koh Samui. To quote directly from ThaiVisa.com:

An American wanted by US authorities for alleged money laundering was charged on Samui Island yesterday.

Immigration police arrested Ronald Paul Shade, 39, who was allegedly fled California after international police and San Bernardino court issued arrest warrants for him. He was detained to face charges of money laundering and stealing about US$14 million.

Police said the American Embassy contacted them to trace Shade. They later found him “hiding” in Samui, which led to the arrest.

The suspect, who allegedly confessed, will be extradited to the US, according to a bilateral extradition treaty.

In the relatively recent past, occurrences such as this were relatively rare. This was likely due to the fact that the Thai Immigration database was not “tied in” to the American criminal databases and watchlists. Recently, it was announced that the Thai Immigration database would begin sharing information with their American counterparts, and vice versa. It is important to note that the United States of America and the Kingdom of Thailand share an Extradition Treaty. Therefore, an American Citizen with a pending criminal warrant, such as the suspect in the aforementioned news report, could be detained in Thailand and extradited back to the United States to face trial for the alleged offenses.

In the United States, there are various types of warrants and writs which could be issued in an attempt to compel an American Citizen, foreign national, or lawful permanent resident, to appear before a court of competent jurisdiction. For example, a bench warrant is generally issued by a Court when a defendant has failed to appear in connection with a pending civil or criminal matter. In some cases, those with a traffic citation, who fail to properly deal with the matter, are subjected to a bench warrant until such time as the underlying charge is satisfactorily resolved.

Under certain circumstances, a court in one jurisdiction will issue a fugitive warrant for the arrest of an individual in connection with an offense committed in another jurisdiction. Although this is somewhat uncommon, such matters are highly complex and those who are the subject of such a warrant should seek competent legal advice as soon as possible in an effort to deal with the matter in accordance with all relevant laws.

It would appear that Royal Thai Immigration authorities are taking a hard line against foreigners who are suspects in legal proceedings abroad. It remain to be seen whether this policy will continue to be rigorously enforced by Thai authorities, but one could easily infer that enforcement will continue and possibly become more zealous.

For further informational reading please see: warrant or Warrant For My Arrest.

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7th July 2010

American Warrants: An Overview

Posted by : admin

The American Criminal Justice system, and the body of US law springing therefrom, is something of an amalgam of 234 years of American jurisprudence both codified and recognized by means of common law legal doctrines such as stare decisis. The following is a brief overview of US warrants and their usage by American courts in enforcing jurisdiction over individuals (both American Citizens and Foreign Nationals).

The Bench Warrant

The following is a direct quote from Wikipedia:

A bench warrant is a variant of an arrest warrant that authorizes the immediate on-sight arrest of the individual subject to the bench warrant. Typically, judges issue bench warrants for persons deemed to be in contempt of court—possibly as a result of that person’s failure to appear at the appointed time and date for a mandated court appearance. Bench warrants are issued in either criminal or civil court proceedings.

Commonly (but not always), the person who is subject to a bench warrant has intentionally avoided a court appearance to escape the perceived consequences of being found guilty of a crime. If a person was on bail awaiting criminal trial when the nonappearance took place, the court usually forfeits bail and may set a higher bail amount to be paid when the subject is rearrested, but normally the suspect is held in custody without bail. If a person has a bench warrant against them when stopped by a law enforcement officer, the authorities put them in jail and a hearing is held. The hearing usually results in the court setting a new bail amount, new conditions, and a new court appearance date. Often, if a person is arrested on a bench warrant, the court declares them a flight risk (likely to flee) and orders them held without bail.

Bench warrants are traditionally issued by sitting judges or magistrates.

There are a relatively large number of instances in which an individual finds that they have a pending bench warrant. Some opt to take the “do nothing” approach and simply hope the problem will go away on its own. Generally, this is unwise as courts rarely, if ever, allow a pending bench warrant to “go away”. Therefore, those with a pending warrant are well advised to retain competent legal counsel in an effort to deal with the matter promptly.

Arrest Warrant

With that in mind, the following quote, from the aforementioned wikipedia entry, succinctly sums up the issues regarding an outstanding arrest warrant:

An outstanding arrest warrant is an arrest warrant that has not been served. A warrant may be outstanding if the person named in the warrant is intentionally evading law enforcement, is unaware that a warrant is out for him/her, the agency responsible for executing the warrant has a backlog of warrants to serve, or a combination of these factors.

Some jurisdictions have a very high number of outstanding warrants. The U.S. state of California in 1999 had around 2.5 million outstanding warrants, with nearly 1 million of them in the Los Angeles area.[4]The city of Baltimore, Maryland, had 53,000 as of 2007.[5] New Orleans, Louisiana, has 49,000.[6]

Some places have laws placing various restrictions on persons with outstanding warrants, such as prohibiting renewal of one’s driver’s license or obtaining a passport.

The final line of the above quotation brings up a point that has previously been mentioned on this blog. Namely: the confiscation of one’s US passport by the American government if one has a pending arrest warrant in the USA. As has been previously noted on this blog, this can be an occasional occurrence outside of the United States when an American travels to a US Embassy or US Consulate to renew their passport or add visa pages at an American Citizen Services Section. In a large number of cases, if a pending arrest warrant is discovered, even if unknown to the subject, the passport will likely be seized, but the American Citizen may be given the option of being issued a travel document to travel back to the USA to deal with the pending matter.

Mittimus

Although not as commonplace in modern times, the mittimus writ is similar to a warrant and its practical application can be very similar to that of a warrant in some cases . The following is a final quote from the previously mentioned Wikipedia entry:

A mittimus is a writ issued by a court or magistrate, directing the sheriff or other executive officer to convey the person named in the writ to a prison or jail, and directing the jailor to receive and imprison the person.

An example of the usage of this word is as follows: “… Thomas Fraser, Gregor Van Iveren and John Schaver having some time since been Confirmed by the Committee of the County of Albany for being Persons disaffected to the Cause of America and whose going at large may be dangerous to the State, Ordered Thereupon that a Mittimus be made out to keep them confined till such time as they be discharged by the Board or any other three of the Commissioners.” Minutes of the Commissioners for detecting and defeating Conspiracies in the State of New York, Albany County Sessions,1778-1781. (Albany, New York: 1909) Vol. 1, Page 90

In police jargon, these writs are sometimes referred to as CAPIAS, defined as orders to “take” a person or assets. CAPIAS writs are often issued when a suspect fails to appear for a scheduled adjudication, hearing, etc.

As can be inferred from the citation above, the mittimus writ has its roots in American legal history and can still impact individuals (both American and Foreign) today.

Fugitive Warrant

Fugitive Warrants are another type of legal instrument that differ slightly from the aforementioned warrants. Below is a direct quotation from the glossary of Lawyers.com:

Definition
: an arrest warrant issued in one jurisdiction for someone who is a fugitive from another jurisdiction

Those with a pending American Fugitive Warrant are strongly advised to seek counsel from a competent American attorney in an effort to resolve the situation and deal with the legal consequences as quickly as possible.

Nothing stated above should be viewed as a definitive legal analysis regarding the issue of US Warrants. Furthermore, any individual case is unique and as a result no general information transmitted herein should be viewed as an appropriate legal analysis of a unique factual situation. For further information please see: warrant for my arrest or extradition.

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