Warrants are scary things. They mean that the authorities have issued cause for you to get taken into custody, so you should never treat them lightly. While it is indeed possible to turn yourself in at the local county jail or police station, the moments immediately after being taken into custody are often crucial to your case.
Getting in front of a warrant by turning yourself in may seem like a good step to avoid being handcuffed or stuffed into a police vehicle in front of family and friends. However, anyone seeking to do so should consult with an experienced attorney before making that decision.
It Helps to Have a Lawyer
Having a criminal defense attorney by your side is a way to ensure that your rights are protected. You do not want your case hindered by anything you may say or do while turning yourself into the police.
An attorney can also represent you in court and “turn you in” for misdemeanors instead of you having to physically walk into a police station.
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Does It Matter Which Kind of Warrant Is in Your Name?
Yes. In California, there are bench warrants and arrest warrants. While both enable law enforcement to apprehend you and take you into custody, they are functionally very different.
Bench warrants are issued “from the bench” by the judge and usually relate to violations of court orders, a failure to appear in court, a failure to pay fines that the court has ordered, or other procedural offenses like probation violations.
Arrest warrants are issued when the court deems law enforcement should arrest a person for an initial crime. This is the kind of warrant for which law enforcement needs probable cause. The police must have evidence that the person in question may have committed the crime for an arrest warrant to be issued.
Are the Two Kinds of Warrants Handled Differently?
Yes. If the courts issue an arrest warrant for you, this means that law enforcement has serious reason to believe that you have committed a crime and are tasked with bringing you into custody to start processing your case. This is the typical scenario in which turning yourself into the police station is an option.
However, a bench warrant usually requires law enforcement to bring you directly into court to straighten out the procedural offenses (such as unpaid fines or a previous failure to appear before the court). In other words, your destination for these two warrants will be different.
No matter which type of warrant the courts issued for you, the best option is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer will be able to contact law enforcement and the court on your behalf to begin resolving your warrant.
Additionally, your attorney can give you counsel on what to say and do while in the presence of court officials. This kind of advice can prove invaluable in strengthening your position in court.
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What Should You Do When Facing a Warrant?
The best thing to do when there is a warrant with your name on it is to address the issue as quickly and directly as possible. The first thing to do when you find out that you have a warrant is to contact a criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer will advise you of your options and can contact the authorities to arrange for you to turn yourself in.
An attorney can help in the following ways:
- Explain the charges on the warrant
- Protect your rights by explaining the criminal courts process
- Contact the courts on your behalf and schedule a time for you to get arraigned
- During the court hearing, an attorney can provide a criminal defense against the charges
- Provide recommendations of a bail bondsman if bail is needed
- If you get sent to jail, an attorney can fight to reduce the amount of jail time for the charges committed
Trying to flee a warrant is never a good idea. Getting out of the state of California will not help you to evade the law. You could just as easily be apprehended almost anywhere on earth and extradited. If this happens, the additional consequences will likely be quite severe.
It is also important to be on your best behavior during this period. The worst thing you can do is to get yourself into further trouble with the law. Doing so could compound the difficult legal situation that you currently face.
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Can a Lawyer Prevent a Warrant from Being Issued?
Even if the courts have not issued a warrant for you, but you believe that you are under suspicion of a crime, a criminal defense lawyer can help. If your attorney can uncover evidence that clears you of the crime, they could potentially prevent an arrest warrant from ever being issued. If the evidence that your lawyer gathers is not enough to bar the issuance of a warrant, there are other ways a lawyer can help.
Your attorney can help arrange for your voluntary appearance in court. This way, you can avoid the embarrassment of an arrest. Voluntarily appearing before the court has the added benefit of appealing to the judge. A judge will look far more favorably upon a defendant who voluntarily turns themselves in than one who must be dragged before the court by law enforcement.
Getting into the good graces of the judge can greatly increase the chance that your lawyer will be able to get you reduced bail. It could even help make it so that the judge grants you a release with a promise to appear before the court under your own power again later for trial.
How Should You Act When Turning Yourself In?
The main thing to remember when turning yourself in is that the police are not on your side. Even if the officers are nice and respectful, it is their job to enforce the law. The courts have issued a warrant for your arrest, which means the police are representatives of the authorities who have reason to suspect you of a crime or court violation.
It would help if you were polite and respectful, but do not become overly familiar with the law enforcement officers you are dealing with.
Do Not Talk to the Police
It is tempting to try to clear your name and begin answering law enforcement’s questions. However, without proper legal counsel, this can be a mistake. As many television shows are quick to point out, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
Ask for a Lawyer
If you have not already sought legal counsel, this should be your first move after turning yourself in. A criminal defense lawyer can make sure your rights are protected, and that law enforcement follows proper procedures according to the regulations of the state of California.
When facing a warrant in California, it is critical that you have legal representation. The law is a complicated thing. Trying to navigate it on your own will likely result in far more serious consequences than the outcome you can achieve with a criminal defense lawyer by your side.
An attorney can investigate the circumstances of your warrant and speak on your behalf. Attorneys understand the law and what to and not to say to police officers. An attorney can help protect your legal rights and ensure you don’t say anything that could incriminate yourself. It is your right to obtain legal assistance once you realize there is a warrant for your arrest.
How to Find Out if You Have a Warrant in Your Name
If you believe you might have a warrant for your arrest, there are ways you can find out. Once the warrant is issued, it is sent to several websites informing law enforcement and the public of the warrant. Places to search if you have an arrest warrant online can include:
- The local court’s website where you believe the warrant was issued.
- The local sheriff’s website where you believe the warrant was issued.
- If you are unsure of the local municipality where a warrant might get issued, you can check the state superior court website.
- Performing a criminal background check on yourself can provide information on any pending warrants.
If you cannot find a warrant or don’t know where to search, an attorney can determine if you have a warrant out for your arrest. If so, they can provide a proper defense strategy and help you through the process of clearing the warrant.
It Is Critical to Know If You Have a Warrant
If you believe you have a warrant out for your arrest, you must find out about it. Otherwise, the courts could consider you a “fugitive from justice” if you leave the state. A fugitive from justice is someone who possibly knew about their warrant and left the state to avoid the penalty. Even if you weren’t sure you had a warrant, the courts could accuse you of knowing.
A fugitive from justice is subject to enhanced penalties because the courts believe they tried to run from the law.
Do Not Lie to Law Enforcement
You should never lie to police officers. Doing so can land you in even more legal trouble and will not help your case. If you turn yourself in before seeking out a lawyer, the only thing you should say is that you request legal counsel.
In many cases, law enforcement officers have evidence against you that you might not know of. The evidence can prove you are lying to police officers. You can explain yourself to a criminal defense attorney, and they can speak to law enforcement on your behalf to ensure you don’t get caught in a lie.
A Criminal Defense Attorney from Our Firm Can Help
Regardless of whether the courts have issued an arrest warrant or a bench warrant, the first step before turning yourself into the authorities is to contact a defense attorney at Simmrin Law Group. Fill out our online contact form or give us a call for a free, no-obligation consultation today.
A defense attorney can build a solid defense strategy to get your charges reduced or dismissed. If you believe you have a warrant, contact us immediately. We can check if you have an existing warrant and what the charges are. It is possible to take you to court quickly to get the warrant cleared so you can move on with your life.