Are you notified when a warrant is issued? When a warrant is issued, the court typically mails a copy of it to the defendant’s last known address. However, if you encounter law enforcement before you receive notice of a warrant you will still be arrested. There are also types of warrants, like bench warrants, that may not be forwarded to your last known address. The only way to determine with certainty if a warrant has been issued for your arrest is to go to the courthouse and ask the clerk’s office.
If you receive a call from someone who says they represent law enforcement and that there’s an outstanding warrant for your arrest, you should hang up immediately and contact an attorney. While law enforcement will reach out in this way at times, it is also possible that you are the target of a scam or hoax. Your attorney could not only notify you if there is a warrant for your arrest, but also clear up any confusion with local law enforcement before it becomes an issue later on down the road.
What is a warrant?
A warrant is an official court order that gives law enforcement permission to arrest someone and bring them in front of a judge or magistrate who will decide whether they have violated the law or not. The warrant usually includes information about the alleged crime, such as its location and time, and identifying information about the suspect. It also contains details about what type of evidence exists against them (e.g., DNA samples) and what kind of punishment they face if convicted (e.g., life imprisonment). The most common types of warrants are:
The most common type of warrant is an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant gives police the authority to take a suspect into custody. If you’ve been arrested, your first stop will be jail. The jailhouse booking process will include fingerprinting, mug shots, and a physical examination by medical personnel to determine if you should be held pending bail or released on your own recognizance.
Police can obtain search warrants if they have probable cause that criminal activity occurred at a specific location and believe the evidence of that crime is there. They use the search warrant as legal justification for entering private property to conduct searches and seizures of any evidence they find during their investigation. These warrants are issued by a judge, typically during a criminal investigation.
A bench warrant is issued when a defendant fails to appear in court after receiving a summons or subpoena. A bench warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest the defendant, who will be brought before the judge. This type of warrant earned its name because they are typically written out by a judge at the bench during court proceedings.
Things to do when a warrant is issued
Contact an attorney
You may not want to hire an attorney, but it’s best to consult one before doing anything else. An attorney can tell you whether or not there are any legal options available to contest the warrant and, if so, what they are. This may be as simple as paying off fines or appearing in court on a specified date, or it may involve hiring an attorney who can represent you at trial. Also, this is the best option if you cannot resolve the warrant with the court.
Go directly to court and turn yourself in
If you know where the court is located and how long it will take you to get there, go directly there and turn yourself in as soon as possible. This will save time and money because it will prevent additional charges from being added to your case due to flight risk factors such as avoiding arrest or failing to appear in court when required. You will also avoid having an officer show up at your door with handcuffs ready. Keep in mind that you should consult with your attorney first, as they might be able to arrange for you to resolve your warrant without the need for being taken into custody.
Figure out why you were arrested
An officer may not tell you why they arrested you or what criminal charges have been filed against you. But if the officer does provide any information about the charge or reason for arrest, ask for details in writing. You may want to write down everything that happens during this interaction so that it is clear later when attempting to reconstruct events. If there are specific reasons for your arrest (such as failure to appear or pay fines), then your attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to get those charges dropped in exchange for your appearance at a future date. If there are no such reasons for your arrest, then your attorney can help negotiate a resolution that does not include jail time (for example, community service or probation).
Request a copy of the police report
You should request a copy of the police report for any charges against you as soon as possible after receiving notice that there is a warrant out for your arrest. The police report should detail what happened that led to the charges against you, including names and addresses of witnesses (if any), any evidence collected by investigators, and other pertinent information such as whether or not an emergency medical technician was required to treat anyone involved in the incident that led to your arrest warrant.
Be polite, respectful, and assertive
Do not make sudden moves, as this may cause the officer to react defensively. You have a right to remain silent, and you should exercise that right if the police ask you about anything related to a crime. When in doubt, inform the police that you have a lawyer and ask to speak to them before answering any questions.