What Should I do if There is a Warrant for My Arrest?

with No Comments

Finding out that there is a warrant out for arrest can be frightening and shocking. But lucky for you, you are a few steps ahead since you have found out through means other than the police showing up on your front doorstep. 

What is a Warrant? 

When an individual commits a crime, an arrest warrant can be issued by the Court. This means that a court has authorized police officers to arrest you, because they have probable cause to believe you have committed a crime. Courts will determine probable cause based upon the sworn statements and affidavits of police officers. Once there is a warrant out for your arrest, you may be arrested at any time or any place. To help catch offenders, police officers are typically equipped with license plate scanning devices that will allow them to easily check license plates in order to find out whether you have a warrant issued for your arrest. For more information on arrests generally and the procedures after an arrest, click here

What are Warrantless Arrests?

As with all other criminal procedures, not all arrests are “created equal,” meaning there are times when an arrest may occur without a warrant. In the state of New York, an arrest warrant is typically not required for an arrest to be valid. That is to say, New York authorizes warrantless arrests, so long as the police officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. An arrest warrant, however, is required for an arrest to be made inside someone’s house. However, if the person is observed outside a domicile, no arrest warrant is required. In contrast, click here to learn when an arrest warrant is required

Typically, arrest warrants in the State of New York are issued when the individual misses court (these are called Bench Warrants) or when the Grand Jury returns an Indictment against an individual, when there is no prior corresponding arrest or criminal case. These are frequently called “Silent Indictments” or “X-Indictments.”

What is the Difference Between an Arrest Warrant and a Search Warrant?

When individuals hear the word, “warrant,” most times they will think of a search warrant. However, there are major differences between an arrest warrant and a search warrant. As mentioned previously, an arrest warrant allows police officers to take an individual into police custody.  On the other hand, a search warrant allows police officers to search for specific items at a designated location and take these items into police custody. A search warrant will also detail exactly when and where police officers may execute a search warrant, and what they are searching for. An arrest warrant, on the other hand, does not specify when it can be executed. It only specifies who the individual is to be arrested.

How Do I know if There is a Warrant for My Arrest?

Many individuals do not know if there is a warrant out for their arrest. That is because there is no public centralized database that allows individuals to search by name to see if there are any warrants associated with their name.

Frequently, if you miss court and if a judge orders a “bench warrant,” you will be receiving a notification from the Court or from your attorney about missing court and needing to schedule a date for you to return.

If you believe you’ve missed court, but did not receive any notification, it may be prudent to call the Court where your case was pending. In New York City you should contact the NYC Criminal Court Information Line and if you are outside New York City, you should contact the criminal court for your county.

If there is an arrest warrant as a result of a “Silent indictment” or an “X-Indictment,” frequently there is no way to get advance notice. That is to say, your first notice of there being an arrest warrant may be the warrant squad coming to your house looking to take you into custody. These warrants are likely to be sealed and will not be accessible by calling the Court.

Is the Arrest Warrant Valid?

The next step is to determine whether the arrest warrant is a considered valid. In order to determine this, you are encouraged to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.  However, it is important to know that a valid search warrant will contain:

  • An explanation of probable cause;
  • Police affidavits (sworn statements);
  • Description of the suspect; and
  • Issuance from the court.

If an arrest warrant does not contain all of the above aspects, the warrant may not be valid. If you believe that your arrest would be unlawful, it still may not be a good idea to resist arrest because it is dangerous and can lead to more criminal charges down the road. It is best to fight your unlawful arrest through the courts with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Why is There a Warrant for My Arrest?

As important as it is to determine whether your warrant is valid, it is equally as important (if not more), to determine why there is a warrant issued for your arrest in the first place. If you are unsure why there is a warrant for your arrest, you can call the issuing courthouse to uncover the reason. The better option is to have your criminal defense attorney conduct an investigation to determine what the warrant is for and what the next steps on the case should be.

Turning Yourself In

With the advice of your attorney, once all arrangements have been made, the next best step would be to turn yourself into the police, also known as a “voluntary surrender.” Many people choose to turn themselves in because they rather choose when to undergo the “booking process,” rather than be arrested in their home, place of employment, at the gym, on the street, etc. This may also assist in avoiding future consequences. 

When turning yourself in, it is important to turn yourself in at the precinct of the issuing jurisdiction, in order to speed up the process. Your lawyer may also assist you in speeding up the process by recommending the time of day to turn yourself into the police, based upon their experience with past clients. 

Warrant Expirations 

If you have not spoken to police, the court, or an attorney, and you have not yet been arrested for the warrant, do not assume that you will no longer be arrested or that you were “forgotten about.” Arrest warrants do not expire.  They are only cleared when the individual listed on the warrant appears before the issuing court, or the individual dies. 

Retain an Attorney Immediately 

As you may have already deduced, if there is a warrant out for your arrest, the first and most important thing you should do is speak with a criminal defense attorney.  An attorney will not only be able to provide you with valuable advice, but they are then able to be present during your actual arrest, questioning and court proceedings, without worrying and scrambling. It is crucial not to make any statements until you have spoken with an attorney. Additionally, a lawyer may assist you in posting bond, in order to suspend your arrest warrant. This reduces the risk of arrest and jail time. 

Reach Out to Bail Bondsperson 

While you are contacting an attorney, it would be wise to contact a bail bondsperson as well (or have your attorney do so, as most times attorneys are knowledgeable on the best ones around). Having this option available before your arrest will help reduce the length of time that you are in jail after you are arrested by streamlining the paperwork necessary for posting the bail.

Contact Us For Further Assistance 

If you or a loved one have discovered that there has been a warrant issued for your arrest, contact us immediately in order for us to make all necessary arrangements before you are arrested, or before a voluntary surrender.