An arrest warrant is a legal document giving law enforcement the authority to arrest the person named in the warrant. The warrant is issued when law enforcement has presented the signing judge with certain information. This information must outline sufficient probable cause that the person named is responsible for the crime detailed in the warrant. This is supported by a sworn affidavit attesting to the truth of the information gathered to show probable cause that the person should be taken into custody.
The warrant will include the name and location of the arrestee and additional information. This information will allow law enforcement to arrest the right person. Law enforcement can arrest the individual at any time and place they may be found, unless the warrant includes restrictions.
An arrest warrant is issued in connection with an ongoing criminal investigation. When the person has been arrested and is out on bail and fails to appear in court, the judge may issue a bench warrant instead. This type of warrant also allows the police to arrest the person for failing to appear in court.
Often times people do not know that an arrest warrant has been issued for them until the police show up at their work or home to take them into custody. Further, as a rule, arrest warrants do not expire, so they can be in effect for decades before you are served.
If you suspect an arrest warrant has been issued for you, you can try to call the police to confirm this. This isn’t always the smartest option, however. You may wish to speak with a criminal attorney; they may be able to contact the police on your behalf to determine if an arrest warrant has indeed been issued for you. Other options available to you include contacting the county or district clerk’s office. You can contact the federal court as well to check on a federal warrant.
Also, if your county is particularly well-resourced, they may have an online database maintained by the county or sheriff’s office that lists outstanding warrants. This information is regularly updated so you should check frequently if you suspect there is an arrest warrant out for you. There are also third-party sites that provide this information for a fee.
Working with someone who knows how to properly search for an arrest warrant may give you peace of mind. There are also companies that are in the business of performing warrant searches. Also, you can always work with a bail bondsman who has access to local listings of arrest warrants.
If you determine that there is a warrant for your arrest, do not ignore it. You can decide to surrender yourself to the police. The other option is to consider contacting a criminal defense attorney. Remember, unless there is some restriction in the warrant, the warrant gives law enforcement the authority to arrest you at any time. That means they can arrest you at work, at home, or in the middle of main street.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can work with law enforcement to determine if you can turn yourself in under circumstances that are less disruptive to your family. As well, the attorney will be able to determine if bail is allowed so that you can be released shortly after your arrest.
There must be probable cause to issue the warrant; as such, focusing on probable cause can form the basis for challenging the warrant. For example, if the affidavit contains materially false information, the judge may have issued the warrant in error. This is especially true if the rest of the information in the warrant isn’t sufficient to provide probable cause.
Also, the warrant may be found invalid if it doesn’t contain enough descriptive information to identify the right person.
Sometimes you can resolve the underlying concern for which the warrant was issued in the first place. If an arrest warrant was issued for outstanding speeding tickets, for example, you can pay the tickets and any fines.
If you were arrested for failing to pay child support, you will have to make your child support payments current and pay any outstanding fees and fines. Not all crimes are resolved with the payment of outstanding fines, however. While misdemeanors may be resolved in this way, felonies generally are not.
If a warrant has been issued for your arrest, do not bury your head in the sand. Consult with a criminal attorney who can help you determine if the warrant can be challenged or how you can surrender to the police in the least disruptive manner.