woman wearing a face mask

Recent Changes in Policy for Summons and Bench Warrants

In early 2021, Michigan made changes to the criteria for issuing bench warrants, including expanding the use of summons rather than bench warrants for most criminal offenses. Prior to this change, offenders were issued bench warrants and detained immediately after their arrest to wait to be seen by the magistrate. The new changes to this process replace the bench warrant with a summons, which bypasses the immediate detainment of offenders and instead serves the offender with a date and time to appear before the court. This document is delivered in person to the offender’s residence, or by mail to their last known address.

This change applies to most offenses, with some exceptions. Assaultive crimes, including any crime involving domestic violence, will still result in a bench warrant. Offenses that pose a risk to public safety will also still result in bench warrants. Such offenses could include offenses involving weapons or threats against law enforcement, but would not include offenses like drunk driving, theft, or drug charges where the danger to the public is no longer imminent. Additionally, if the magistrate has reason to believe that an offender is at risk of not appearing in court to address the summons, they may issue a bench warrant instead. Prosecutors also have the power to issue a bench warrant based on compelling circumstances.

This policy change has benefits to offenders. By issuing a summons versus a bench warrant, the offender can avoid jail time immediately following the offense. With bench warrants, offenders could spend days in jail waiting to be seen by the magistrate. Now, offenders can go home after their arrest and appear for court on the date and time they are assigned when they receive their summons. Limiting the time that offenders spend detained after their arrest results in less interference in employment, education, and other obligations. The issuance of summons rather than bench warrants also results in less time spent in court.

There are consequences for the offender not appearing in court at the date and time specified in their issued summons. If this is the offender’s first failure to appear for this case, the court must wait for 48 hours for the offender to appear voluntarily. After 48 hours, the court shall issue a bench warrant for the offender. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. These circumstances include:

  • The offender has committed a new crime
  • The offender poses a risk to public safety
  • Prosecution witnesses have been summoned and are present
  • The proceeding is to impose a sentence for the crime

There could be other compelling reasons for the courts to bypass the 48-hour waiting period and issue a bench warrant. These can be declared by the court. If the court issues a bench warrant before waiting 48 hours for the offender to appear voluntarily, the reason for the immediate bench warrant must be stated on the record.

For all your criminal case questions in regards to summons and bench warrants, contact the Traverse City criminal defense attorneys at Patrick S. Fragel, Attorney at Law, P.C. today for a consultation.