An arrest warrant is a legal document that is issued by a neutral magistrate or judge, and authorizes law enforcement to arrest a specified individual who has been accused of committing a crime. This warrant permits them to take the accused individual into custody based on the reason that is alleged in the warrant document.
The purpose of issuing an arrest warrant is to protect U.S. citizens from being unlawfully arrested, which is a constitutional right provided by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, the warrant is meant to provide actual notice to the individual who is being arrested, and to inform them of the charges that are being brought against them by law enforcement.
An example of this would be how an arrest warrant may be issued when a person becomes a suspect in a criminal case. If the evidence causes the police to reasonably believe that a specific person committed a crime, they may request a warrant in order to arrest them. Such crimes include suspects involved in:
- Rape cases;
- Abduction; and
- Breaking and entering matters.
There are some circumstances in which a person can be arrested if there is a bench warrant out for their arrest. Some of the most common examples include when a person:
- Fails to show up for a court hearing;
- Ignores a subpoena ordering them to testify;
- Fails to pay court-ordered child support or traffic citations; or
- Violates the terms of their probation.
Essentially, a bench warrant has the same consequences as an arrest warrant. The difference is that it is issued for different reasons, specifically for being in contempt of court. Because of this, some of the defenses to a bench warrant may differ from those for a standard arrest warrant, which will be further discussed below.
If you have any questions about an arrest warrant, or are aware of an arrest warrant issued against you, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately for further legal advice. Failure to cooperate with authorities during an arrest can result in serious consequences, and a lawyer can advise you regarding the next steps that you should take. Your lawyer can help you prepare a defense to either get your charges dropped or reduce any resulting penalties.
How Do Arrest Warrants Work?
For an arrest warrant to be valid, there are several requirements that law enforcement must first meet. They must have sufficient probable cause to arrest a suspect, and they must provide evidence that supports their belief that the suspect is actually the person responsible for the crime that was committed.
This information includes the name of the individual and the crime that was committed, and must be submitted to the court in the form of an affidavit. The affidavit must also contain the reason why an arrest warrant should be issued for this specific person.
Once law enforcement provides this information, the arrest warrant must be signed and issued by a neutral and detached magistrate. After the judge reviews and signs it, the arrest warrant will authorize law enforcement to take the person into custody at any time and in any place in which they can locate them. The only exception to this standard would be if there are restrictions listed within the warrant itself.
If law enforcement fails to provide probable cause and/or sufficient evidence to support their beliefs, it may be considered an invalid arrest warrant. An arrest warrant may also be considered invalid if the judge who signs is not neutral and detached from the request. An example of this would be how if the judge is not an objective party and is being paid by law enforcement to issue the warrant, this will invalidate both the warrant requirements and the document itself.
You can determine whether you have a warrant out for your arrest by conducting an arrest warrant search, such as:
- Checking local court records;
- Contacting a local sheriff’s office;
- Speaking to a bail bondsman;
- Calling a local precinct directly, although this is generally not recommended; or
- By consulting a criminal defense attorney.
What Is An Outstanding Warrant?
An outstanding warrant is a valid arrest warrant that was originally issued months or years ago, but has not been fulfilled. Outstanding warrants are still considered to be valid because it simply means that the person who was named in the original arrest warrant has not yet been arrested.
Additionally, “outstanding” can also mean that the warrant is still active. As such, it can be used to arrest that person at any time or place in which they are then found. An example of this would be how if someone is pulled over for a traffic violation, the police will check if there are any outstanding warrants. If there are, the person can be taken into custody even if their traffic violation is not sufficient to arrest them.
Some of the most common examples of why a warrant might be outstanding include:
- The person does not know about the initial warrant against them;
- The person could be evading law enforcement and/or being arrested; or
- The law enforcement agency that is responsible for serving the warrant has failed to do so.
Generally speaking, the only exceptions would be if:
- Law enforcement has the wrong individual;
- The original warrant was invalid; and/or
- If law enforcement has already served the warrant, but a clerical error was made within the law enforcement system.
What Are The Consequences Of An Outstanding Warrant? Are There Any Defenses?
An outstanding warrant means that you can be arrested at any time. This means that the arrest can occur while you are out running errands, or at work. This is considered to be the definitive consequence of an outstanding warrant.
Another significant legal repercussion would be that you can be tried for the original criminal offense for which the warrant was issued, regardless of whether it was initially a felony or misdemeanor offense. This is especially true if you were intentionally evading law enforcement.
Additionally, while there is a statute of limitations for specific criminal charges, other crimes such as murder or homicide will never expire. In terms of the statute of limitations for outstanding arrest warrants, the original charge will never expire until you are arrested. This is because you are currently considered to be a fugitive.
If you have an outstanding warrant against you, there are some legal defenses which may enable you to eliminate the warrant. An example of this would be how if you have a reasonable and adequate excuse for missing the court date due to an emergency, you may be able to cite this reason as a defense. A local criminal defense lawyer will be best suited to helping you understand whether any defenses are available to you based on the specifics of your case.
Do I Need A Lawyer For An Outstanding Warrant?
If you have an outstanding arrest warrant against you, you should contact a local criminal defense lawyer immediately. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can negotiate a reasonable solution to the warrant, and verify if there are any other outstanding warrants against you. Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.