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Have an Arrest Warrant? What It Is and What to Do About It

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Perhaps you never paid your speeding ticket fine. Perhaps you forgot to show up to court. Or maybe you were accused of committing a crime. In any of these scenarios, a warrant for your arrest was probably issued by a judge and entered into a database for all law enforcement officers (and anyone performing a background check on you) to see. To better understand your risks, consequences, and actions to take to get the help you need, below are the answers to the following questions regarding arrest warrants:
  • What is a warrant?
  • How do I know if there is a warrant out for my arrest?
  • If I have an outstanding warrant, what should I do next?
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is to call an experienced criminal defense attorney for answers on your specific case.

What Is a Warrant?

The purposes of warrants are: 1) To give notice to the person being arrested about the charges being pressed, and 2) To protect individuals from unlawful arrest as stated under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Justice System
  • An arrest warrant is a document issued by a judge which gives authorization for the police to take you into custody if you are accused of committing a crime. A warrant will be issued if probable cause is shown, meaning that a reasonable person would believe the information given is sufficient enough to suggest criminal activity. Note that a warrant is not required for an arrest if a police officer witnesses you committing a crime.
  • A bench (or civil) warrant is issued if a defendant does not appear in court on an assigned date (including jury duty).
  • A search warrant gives law enforcement the authority to search a person’s property without consent. This is used to gather evidence of a crime or to discover illegal materials.
  • A child support warrant is issued in order to collect owed child support payments. These warrants allow wage garnishments.
  • A citation warrant may be either given to a driver or mailed to their home when a traffic infraction is committed.
  • A federal warrant allows both state and local authorities to work with the U.S. Marshals in finding parole/probation violators and wanted fugitives and for federal drug investigations.

How Do I Know If There Is a Warrant Out for My Arrest?

If you have an active warrant, it’s an important thing to know! Current and potential employers and loan officers may run a background check on you or an officer may pull you over for an unrelated traffic infraction. If any of these scenarios take place, you may be turned in or taken straight to jail. It’s best that you not be caught off guard. There are a few options for checking on a pending warrant:
  • Ask any law enforcement officer to run a warrant check on you (be ready to turn yourself in at the time).
  • Appear in person at the court records department of your local courthouse. Some states and counties allow you to check for warrants on their online database.
  • Do an online third-party search. Some of these searches are free and some require payment. Just be sure to use a secure website and don’t give any confidential information.
gavel and handcuffs

If I Have an Outstanding Warrant, What Should I Do Next?

Warrants don’t expire, so don’t think that just feigning ignorance will make it go away on its own. If you find out you have an outstanding warrant and choose to do nothing about it, the consequences you will eventually have to face could be worse. You may be looking at steeper fines, more severe punishment, and a criminal record. If you find out you have an outstanding warrant, you can call the court that issued it and tell them you’d like to resolve it, but it is best to call an attorney first. Navigating the legal system can be very time consuming and complicated. Each case is unique and having someone on your side can make all the difference in the outcome, both immediately and in the long term. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your warrant, provide advice, accompany you to the courthouse, and even work to get your warrant dismissed or expunged from your record.

Bradley Corbett

Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.

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Don’t wait until it is too late! Delaying or even denying yourself the counsel and strength we can provide you could have life changing consequences. Call us today and let an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney help you protect your freedoms, life, and family.

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