How do I confirm the validity of a bench warrant?

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How do I confirm the validity of a bench warrant?

Received a notice to appear on warrant yesterday in the regular mail form LA county sheriff’s dept. First, not clear on why I received it? Can a collection company get an arrest warrant for an unpaid debt? Second, the letter is on plain paper, no LA county letterhead of any kind. The address to report to is crossed out in pen with an alternate address stamped in. Does that sound like a customary practice? Trying to determine if this is some scare tactic from the collection agency or if its real. Never had legal issues before.

Asked on February 4, 2011 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I would just like to add to the other post that you cannot be threatened with criminal action due to a debt.  People do not go to jail for owing money.  Debtor's prison went out about the time Dickens. That is unless you had committed a fraud of some sort; that would be a crime. For example, if you scammed someone into lending money with no intention to repay.  Absent something of that nature, neither a debt collector or creditor may threaten you with imprisonment or even the possibility of criminal charges.  If they do you could actually sue them. It's the law - the "Fair Debt Collections Practices Act" (FDCPA).  Not to mention other federal/state laws broken by the "issuance" of such a document.

If this is in fact a false bench warrant, take legal action against the collection company/creditor.  Consult with an attorney on this.  For a civil action an initial consultation for this type case is usually free.  It can get complicated so legal representation is best.

Note:  Keep everything you received- the warrant itself, the envelope, and any other relevant items/information.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I would think that the easiest thing to do is to call the LA County Sheriff's Department and ask or to go online and see if they list warrants on their website.  From the way that you have described the alleged warrant I would seriously have some doubts as to its validity.  Sheriff's know how to "do warrants" as they do them all the time.  You may be correct that someone is trying to use this as a scare tactic.  Did you keep the envelope?  Was there a return address and where was it post marked?  You may want to run this by a criminal attorney in your area just to be sure as well.  They will be able to take a look at it and let you know what they think it really is.  And generally warrants are not executed in that manner - through the mail.  Good luck to you.


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