I have an Active Criminal Warrant; What Should I Do?
Sometimes, there is no other option but to turn yourself in; other times, it is as simple as paying a small fee or having your attorney file a short motion. This post should help clear up your options when it comes to handling an active warrant for your arrest.
Failure to Appear
Criminal trial dockets are not optional. You MUST appear for your trial. If you do not, then a warrant will be issued for your arrest. This is the most common warrant problem that arises in my daily criminal law practice. Maybe you’ve forgotten the court date or went to the wrong courthouse. Perhaps the clerk forgot to enter that you appeared in court. Whatever the reason, there is now a warrant out for your arrest because you failed to show up to court when required. What can you do to avoid going to jail?
First, if the initial reason you had to go to court was because of a minor traffic violation, such as failure to provide proof of insurance, no taillights, speeding, or driving without a license or with a suspended license, then avoiding jail can be relatively easy. A vast majority of these cases process through local municipal (city) courts. These courts typically have a system to resolve failure to appear warrants on minor traffic cases. In Huntsville City Court, the program is called “Amnesty Court,” where you pay a fee, appear for a brief court date soon thereafter, and agree to pay the fines on the initial charges. If all of those tasks are completed, the warrant is removed. In Athens, the program is not called “Amnesty”; you simply pay $100 penalty per case and sign an agreement to appear at the next court date.
On the other hand, if the initial offense is a more serious traffic offense (DUI, reckless driving, etc.), a misdemeanor, or felony offense, the solution may not be so simple. In that case, you will be best served by speaking with an attorney, as the results can vary. Our experienced Huntsville criminal lawyers have had success in getting a failure to appear warrant recalled simply by filing a motion to explain why our client missed court and that he or she is not a flight risk. If the judge is convinced, the warrant may be recalled without the defendant’s appearance, but this usually requires a very legitimate excuse, such as a medical or family emergency or incarceration in another jurisdiction. The judge may require that the defendant immediately appear in his court or chambers with counsel prior to the warrant being recalled. Of course, a judge can simply force a defendant to turn himself in to be booked and processed, but may not set a new bond. Ultimately, your first step in getting a more serious failure to appear warrant recalled is speaking with an attorney.
Warrant for New Offense
There is not really a whole lot that can be done in this situation. If you verify that there is an active warrant for your arrest based on a new charge (not a failure to appear on an old charge), then you should IMMEDIATELY contact an attorney. You will have to turn yourself in soon, so it is vital that an attorney is prepared to file for appropriate bond amounts and make other arrangements to make the initial phases of criminal litigation less stressful.
Probation Revocation Warrant
If you are already on probation and your officer believes that there is probable cause you have violated the terms of your probation, then you may have to deal with a possible revocation of your probation. In that event, the probation officer will issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are arrested for a new offense while on probation, have a positive drug screen, miss an appointment, are not making payments to your officer, or have committed some other violation of your probation, it is smart to talk to an attorney immediately. Having an attorney retained and ready to represent you before being arrested on a revocation warrant is important. Soon after your arrest, the attorney can file a motion to set a bond, as most people arrested for probation revocation are not given a bond immediately after arrest, unlike most offenses. Facing a revocation hearing while being incarcerated is difficult because you are unable to work to earn money to pay fines and probation fees. Further, you are not able to participate in certain programs that may help avoid revocation, such as anger management and drug counseling. The threat of being put in jail, however, is not a reason to lie or hide information from your probation officer. Many times that officer can be your biggest ally.
Ultimately, if you are concerned about whether an active warrant is out there for your arrest or if you need assistance dealing with an active warrant, contacting an attorney should be your first course of action. Competent counsel will be able to make the warrant process far less burdensome.
If you or a loved one are facing a criminal warrant for your arrest, contact Martinson & Beason, P.C. by email or by calling (256) 533-1667.