In the United States of America, a judge may issue an arrest warrant against you for a number of reasons, including involvement in a criminal activity or a failure to honor a court appearance. An outstanding warrant is an arrest warrant that authorizes law enforcement to take an individual into custody. The term “outstanding” implies that the arrest is valid, active and can be enforced to take the suspect into custody at any time.
How Outstanding Warrants Work
An outstanding arrest warrant is issued by the court at the request of the prosecution, the state, or federal law enforcement agency. During the warrant request, the prosecution or police must provide evidence linking the suspect to the crime in question. They must also provide proof that formal charges have been filed against the accused.
An outstanding arrest warrant may also be issued in civil or criminal cases when the suspect has skipped a court appearance. The judge issuing the outstanding warrant may specify the amount of bail that the suspect must pay before release.
Finding Out If There Is an Outstanding Warrant Against You
You can find out if there is an outstanding warrant against you by looking up your name on the area court’s website. Most court websites have searchable public records section with information about the area’s outstanding warrants that is available to the general public. If this information is not available online, contact the court or county clerk for help. Every state is divided into circuits for purposes of hearing criminal cases.
So, Is There A Warrant Against You?
When you contact the court’s clerk, ask if person X (your name) has an outstanding warrant. Come with your name, date of birth, case number, and if possible, your Social Security number. Do not identify yourself as the individual for whom the arrest was issued as this might trigger an immediate arrest. You should not have any difficulty getting answers about a criminal case as most data are available to the public.
That said, it is important to understand that certain civil cases may not be publicized. Every state has unique rules about the civil cases that can be made public. Most often, cases touching on divorce and juvenile delinquency are unlikely to be made public. Also, domestic violence cases that involve restraining orders, protective peace, are unlikely to be made public. If the records from your case have been restricted from the public, consider hiring an attorney or a bail bondsman.
Outstanding Warrants in Federal Cases
To know if there is an outstanding warrant in a federal case, contact the federal clerk of the court that has you believe has issued the warrant. This can be a bail bondsman, attorney, friend, or relative. Alternatively, you can visit the courthouse and look up your name in the available public records. It is advisable that you have someone else do this for you, especially if the warrant is outstanding as you risk being locked up by the courthouse’s security officials.
An individual may also have multiple outstanding warrants from different circuits. In such cases, the clerk in one circuit may not be able to inform you whether there is a warrant against you from another circuit. Therefore, you should consider working with an attorney or a bail bondsman to determine the nature of the warrants against you.
Finding Out If There Is an Outstanding Warrant Against You
Know What to Look For
When it comes to outstanding warrants, you may be up against an arrest warrant or a bench warrant. Both warrants require the suspect to be taken into custody. That said, every warrant has unique underlying reasons.
- A bench warrant is issued by the court and directs the law enforcement to take the individual named in the warrant into custody in preparation for arraigning in court.
- A bench warrant is issued when an individual has failed to honor court summons, violated probation, declined to pay a court-directed fine, or failed to pay child support or complete community service.
- An arrest warrant is issued when the law enforcement has convinced the court that they have enough evidence to take a suspect into custody.
Understand the Possible Consequences for Failing to Honor Court Summons
You may have received a notice or summon to appear in court for a traffic violation. Or, you may be expected to appear in court for a mentioning or trial in a criminal case. When you fail to appear in either instance, you may be slapped with contempt of court or failure to appear charges. As a result, the court may issue a bench warrant directing the law enforcement to take you into custody where you may face the following:
- You can be sentenced to a jail term or required to pay a fine if you are found guilty of contempt
- You driver’s license may be revoked until you appear in court
- You may be directed to pay a bond, or the bond you previously posted may be revoked.
Check for The Outstanding Warrant
You can look up outstanding warrants in the following ways:
- If you are aware of the specific circuit court that issued the warrant, look up your name in the court’s website or public records’ section.
- Call your area circuit court and ask the clerk if there is an outstanding warrant against you. However, keep in mind that you can be traced using your phone records and taken into custody.
- You can also contact the federal court that has issued your warrant or look up their website’s public directory for the details of your warrant.
- There are also websites that provide warrant check. Look up for an outstanding warrant against you here. You will pay a fee to generate your report.
Examine the Information from Your Warrant Result
Upon completing the warrant check and confirming that there is a warrant against you, it is important that you closely examine the information therein so you can decide what to do next. Your warrant check should yield the following information:
- Date of the offense you are charged with
- Date the charges against you were filed
- The court that issued a warrant against you
- The reason for the warrant
- A detailed description of the underlying criminal offense for which an arrest warrant was issued
- The nature of the case, such as failure to honor court summon, pay traffic ticket or felony.
- Any outstanding fines or bond
Answering to An Outstanding Warrant Against You
Contact A Criminal Defense Lawyer Right Away
You should contact a criminal defense immediately if you know that you have skipped court summons, a hearing, or if you have an outstanding warrant against you. An outstanding warrant is a serious matter that you must not attempt to handle on your own. A criminal defense attorney understands the law as well as pertinent procedures and is best placed to advise you on your options. Your criminal defense attorney will do the following:
- Get in touch and negotiate for your arraignment rather than being taken into custody
- In case it is a bench warrant, schedule a hearing prior to arrest
- Arrange to surrender rather than being arrested
- Agree on the outstanding bond amount or bond increase
Find Out If Your Area District Attorney Has an Amnesty Program
Some district attorney’s run time-restricted amnesty programs that can be utilized to resolve outstanding warrants. These programs may come in the forms of amnesty for warrants or the imposed fines in order to make it easier for suspects to appear before the court to resolve the underlying legal matters. Generally, these amnesty programs target warrants for skipped court appearances for minor offenses like consuming alcohol in public places. Look up for such programs from the district attorney’s website.
Get in Touch with the Court That Issued the Warrant
Once you have contacted your lawyer, they will get in touch with the court that issued the warrant against you in order to verify its validity. If it is, your lawyer will advise you on the best way to respond.
In establishing the validity of the warrant, your lawyer will investigate the possibility that the warrant in question resulted from an error on the part of the court. The court may have failed to duly notify you of your hearing date or may have changed the date without informing you. If this is the case, your lawyer will press for the recall of the warrant and demand that you be cleared of any fines and charges related to the outstanding warrant.
Resolving an Outstanding Warrant
Be Ready for Your Arrest
The court may direct that you be taken into custody before hearing your outstanding warrant case. Your lawyer will set up a meeting with you in order to discuss the arrest process, which may include being photographed and fingerprinted. During this meeting, your lawyer will advise against making any statements to the police or anyone else in their absence. Remember, what you say can be used against you before the court of law; and, you have the right to remain silent. If you are taken into custody before getting a lawyer, demand for one immediately and do not take questions before speaking with a lawyer.
Arrange for a Bail Bondsman
Before you are taken into custody, your lawyer may suggest that you (or the lawyer) get to contact a bail bondsman. If you are yet to know the bail amount, your lawyer may arrange for a bail bondsman to be present during your court appearance. This will allow for immediately bail posting should the judge grant you bail.
- If you live in a city where bail bondmen are legal, be sure to get in touch with one as soon as you know you might need them.
- The use of commercial bondsmen is outlawed in Oregon, Kentucky, and Wisconsin, as well as in the federal system. Commercial bondsmen are also rarely used in Nebraska, Maine, and District of Columbia. If you live in one of these states, or are in the federal system, any bond charged on you will go directly to the government. Thus, if you are unable to afford bail, you will need co-signors to deposit bail on your behalf.
Negotiate the Place and Time of Your Surrender
If the judge has ordered that you surrender yourself to the law enforcement agency rather than appear for court hearing first, your lawyer will make arrangements with respect to the place and time of your surrender. This could spare you the embarrassment of getting arrested in public while giving you ample time to prepare for what has been discussed above. Your lawyer will advise you on the best time to surrender to the police in order to minimize jail time before appearing before the judge.
In most cases, you will only resolve an outstanding warrant by appearing in the court that issued it. Generally, this calls for surrendering to the police (after consulting with your lawyer). A hearing will be set once you are in custody. After the hearing, the judge may release you on bail, without bail, impose a fine, or direct that you remain in custody. The court will consider the seriousness of the crime for which you have been accused before reaching a verdict.
- If you skipped hearing for a serious crime, the court may set a higher bail or deny you bail if it has reason to believe you are either dangerous or are a flight risk.
- If your outstanding warrant was occasioned by non-payment of a ticket, the court will probably recall the warrant when you appear in court and pay the stipulated fine.
- If there is an outstanding warrant against you and you surrender to police, you will be entered into the criminal legal process. You will be arraigned in court for the judge to determine bail. You may eventually go on trial.
Contacting an Outstanding Warrants Attorney Near Me
If you have skipped a court appearance, or have learnt that there is an outstanding warrant against you, do not wait, wonder, or worry when you may be arrested. Get in touch with a criminal defense attorney immediately. A lawyer knows how to handle an arrest warrant, and can advise on how to safeguard your rights during this trying time. The Law Offices of Jonathan Franklin specializes in representing people who are accused of domestic violence, DUI, drug charges, white collar crimes, and other crimes in the L.A area and throughout Southern California. Contact Jonathan Franklin today at 310-273-9600 and kick start your criminal defense process.