What Is a Body Only Warrant in Minnesota? Why Can't I Get Bail?
Anthony Bushnell, Minnesota criminal defense attorney, explains what a body only warrant for arrest means and why someone arrested on a body only warrant may not be able to get a bail amount to be released. He will also explain how a defense attorney can help change this and arrange bail.
What Is a Body Only Warrant for Arrest and Why Do I Have an Arrest Warrant?A body only warrant in Minnesota is a warrant issued by a judge that requires any law enforcement agency finding the person named in the warrant to arrest that person and hold him until he can be brought to court in the county the warrant was issued. "Body Only" means no bail can be posted to get released. The judge wants the person held in custody until he appears in court. (But a defense attorney can often change this.) Many warrants are not issued this way: warrants for arrest often state a bail amount, and a person arrested on a warrant with a bail amount can get that bail posted and be released as soon as the arresting officer finishes booking and paperwork. Body only warrants are usually issued when a person has missed a court date and the judge believes the person will not show up to court voluntarily (especially if the person has missed several court dates before). They are also issued when someone is charged with a serious crime and the prosecutor does not have a permanent address where they can find the person, or when they believe the person is a risk to public safety. However, a defense attorney can often get the terms of a warrant changed so that bail can be set and the person with a warrant can get released. The next section explains how.
How to Get Bail Set with a Body Only WarrantA body only warrant could be issued because of charges filed by the prosecutor in a complaint, or because a person missed a court date, or for probation violations, or for other reasons. Once a person is in jail on a body only warrant, he or she typically must wait until the court reviews their case within certain time limits (described in my legal guide on How to Post Bail and Get Out of Jail, linked below) to determine bail and/or "conditions of release." This can take several days, meaning you are stuck in jail until the judge is ready to see you. But a defense attorney can often speak with the prosecutor or a judge and get a bail amount set sooner. When a defense attorney knows that you have a body only warrant and you haven't been arrested yet, a defense attorney may be able to get the court to agree on a bail amount NOW so that you can go to the jail and post bail right away. Then you can be released after being booked and processed (which may take as many as five hours, but is much better than sitting in jail). If you have already been arrested, a defense attorney can often get the court to set bail very quickly so you could get out the same day. A person without an attorney could try to do this, but it is not likely he or she would be able to get a hold of the prosecutor or file the right kind of request with the court. Defense attorneys simply have access to the system and know the right requests to file to get things done quickly.
Can a Public Defender Help Me Get Bail?A public defender is not appointed to represent someone until the first court hearing or until the police try to question someone while in custody (whichever happens first). That means that if you are being held in jail on a body only warrant, and you don't already have a public defender for these charges, you will not see a public defender until you actually are taken into court. This could be days after you are arrested. The only way to get an attorney in the meantime is to contact a private defense attorney (one you pay for) or to have someone do it for you. Those of us who practice criminal defense will often charge a limited fee just to help someone get out of jail, without requiring him or her to pay for full representation first.