Having an outstanding arrest warrant in California can significantly restrict your freedom and put you at risk of being taken into custody at any moment. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the implications of having a warrant until it’s too late. This article will highlight five key things you cannot do if you have a warrant in California, along with steps you can take to address the situation.
What is an Arrest Warrant in California?
An arrest warrant is a court order authorizing law enforcement to take you into custody. Warrants are issued when you fail to appear in court after being charged with a crime, violate the terms of probation or parole, or authorities have probable cause to arrest you for an alleged crime.
There are a few main types of arrest warrants in California:
- Felony warrant – Issued for serious criminal allegations like robbery, assault, sex crimes, etc. Felony warrants do not have an expiration date.
- Misdemeanor warrant – Issued for minor criminal offenses like petty theft, DUI, simple assault. Misdemeanor warrants typically expire after 1 year.
- Bench warrant – Issued when you fail to appear at a court hearing or violate probation terms. Bench warrants typically expire after 180 days.
- Search warrant – Authorizes police to search a location and seize evidence related to a crime.
- Traffic warrant – Issued for unpaid tickets or failure to appear in traffic court.
How Do I Know if There’s a Warrant Out for My Arrest in California?
You may not even be aware that there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Here are some signs that there could be a warrant issued with your name on it:
- You missed a court date or violated probation but never heard back from the court.
- You were involved in an investigation but never formally charged.
- Someone pressed charges against you, but you were never arrested or notified.
- You have unpaid fines or traffic tickets that went ignored.
- Your driver’s license was suspended without explanation.
To find out for sure, you can call the court clerk and provide your name and date of birth to see if any warrant comes up under your record. You can also call the police department to inquire. However, once alerted about an active warrant, the police may try to arrest you immediately.
5 Freedoms You Lose When You Have a Warrant in California
An outstanding warrant seriously limits your fundamental freedoms and can wreak havoc on your daily life. Here are five key freedoms impacted when there’s a warrant out for your arrest:
1. Travel Freely
If you have a warrant in California, you cannot travel freely across state lines or fly on commercial airlines without the risk of getting arrested. Law enforcement agencies routinely share warrant information and check databases for passenger information. If your name comes up, you could be detained at airport security or even removed from a flight to be taken into custody.
The best way to avoid complications is to clear up any outstanding warrants as soon as possible. Consider contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you settle your case, get the warrant recalled, and restore your rights.
2. Drive Legally
An outstanding warrant can also lead to your driver’s license being suspended in California. The DMV shares data with law enforcement, so even a routine traffic stop could lead to your arrest if you have an active warrant.
To get your license reinstated and regain your driving privileges, you will need to resolve your criminal case and pay any fines or fees that are owed. Your defense attorney can advise you on the proper legal steps so you can get back on the road legally.
3. Enter a Military Base
If you or a loved one has an outstanding warrant, you will be denied access to military bases across California and other states. Bases conduct security checks and will not allow anyone with a warrant to enter.
This could impact family members who want to visit someone stationed on a base. Consulting with a criminal lawyer is key to exploring options like voluntarily surrendering the warrant so it can be cleared from your record.
4. Collect Government Benefits
Certain government benefits like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, disability benefits, and housing assistance could be disrupted if you have an outstanding warrant. Federal and state agencies conduct background checks, and accessing those programs requires a clean record.
Though benefits vary case-by-case, taking care of a warrant is an important step in regaining eligibility for government aid you may rely on. A skilled defense lawyer can help resolve your case favorably so your record is clear.
5. Feel at Ease
Perhaps most importantly, having a warrant means you cannot feel fully at ease until it is handled. Law enforcement officers have the right to arrest you anytime, anywhere, if you have an outstanding warrant, even if you are not otherwise breaking the law.
This lack of peace of mind and the constant risk of detention makes it critical to address your warrant proactively. A dedicated criminal defense attorney can walk you through the process, protect your rights, and help you finally relax once it’s settled.
Steps to Take Immediately If You Have a Warrant in California
Learning about a warrant for your arrest is scary. But taking prompt action improves the chances for a positive resolution:
1. Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Having an experienced criminal justice attorney in your corner is critical when facing a warrant. They can argue to “quash” the warrant or recall it. This lifts the order to arrest and restores your freedoms.
A lawyer can also help negotiate with prosecutors to reduce or dismiss charges. Plus, they can defend you in court if the case proceeds to trial. Don’t delay in retaining counsel.
2. Turn Yourself In on the Warrant
For nonviolent misdemeanors, turning yourself in to deal with the warrant can resolve matters quickly. Hiring a misdemeanor lawyer beforehand allows you to surrender strategically to get booked and released faster.
Attending the court hearing lifts the warrant while your attorney works on your defense. However, surrendering is riskier with felonies or if prosecutors push stiff penalties. Discuss your options with counsel first.
3. Request a Warrant Hold
In urgent cases, such as needing to travel for work or a family emergency, your lawyer can request a warrant hold. If granted, this puts a temporary stay on the warrant being active for a set period of time.
This allows you to fulfill your pressing obligations without getting detained for the warrant. But the hold is temporary, so you must still deal with the underlying case.
4. Follow Up on Errors Immediately
If your warrant was issued incorrectly, such as police having the wrong name, promptly clear this up with your lawyer’s help. They can contact the court to dismiss the faulty warrant and correct the record.
Mistakes happen, but letting the wrong warrant sit risks unnecessary arrest. It is better to address errors right away before that happens.
How a Defense Lawyer Can Help You Fight Your Warrant
Whether it’s a warrant for drug possession, parole violation, missing a court date, or any other reason, an experienced defense attorney has the skills to give you the best chance at avoiding harsh consequences.
They handle all aspects of the case, so you don’t have to face the legal system alone. If you’re looking for an attorney in the Bay Area, look no further than The Nieves Law Firm.
Their team has helped many people in situations like yours regain their lives and freedom after an arrest warrant, and they can help you, too. Don’t wait another day – contact their team today for a case evaluation.