What Should I Do if there’s a Warrant for my Arrest?

Every day thousands of active warrants are issued across the country. Because there are so many active warrants, and the police have no obligation to inform people when they have a warrant out for their arrest, many people have no idea they have a warrant and continue living their normal lives until one day they arrested. That is why if you suspect for any reason that you may have an active warrant for your arrest, it is important to check to be sure.

Once you are certain that you have a warrant for your arrest, understanding how to conduct yourself and move forward will go a long way in determining the outcome of your case. One of the first things to remember is that if you do have a warrant for your arrest, it’s best to turn yourself in before the police arrest you. Turning yourself in demonstrates to the courts that you are a responsible person who wishes to resolve the matter at hand.

The different types of warrants

Keep in mind that while the Statute of Limitation for a crime can expire, an arrest warrant never expires. This means that until you resolve the problem, you will always have a warrant out for your arrest.

The two types of warrants are:

Arrest warrant. This type of warrant is issued by law enforcement officials or a grand jury when they have probable cause to believe you’ve committed a crime. In order to issue such a warrant, the police must conduct an investigation and present their findings to a judge.

Bench warrant. This type of warrant can be issued when you fail to appear in court, pay a fine, or answer a subpoena.

If you suspect that you may have a warrant out for your arrest, here are some of the steps you should take:

Verify warrant. The first step is to verify that you have a warrant for your arrest. You can do so by calling the clerk’s office in the jurisdiction where you believe you have a warrant and asking. It is also possible to visit the county, city, state, or federal website where you suspect you have a warrant. Make sure you visit an official government site that ends in .org.

Contact a lawyer. If you determine that you do in fact have a warrant it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. A lawyer can advise you as to the best way to proceed.  

Turn yourself in. But before doing so, write down the phone numbers of friends, family members and your lawyer. Also, do not bring any personal property, including your vehicle, to the station.

Understand the process. Once you turn yourself in the police will have 24 hours to either let you go free or present you to a judge.

Can Virginia Police Arrest Me Without a Warrant?

Few events are as traumatic as being arrested. If law enforcement arrests you for any type of crime, cooperate with officers, BUT make it clear that you want to speak with an attorney BEFORE you even attempt to explain your side of the story.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can safeguard your rights and advocate for your release and ensure that your explanations are CLEAR, CONCISE, and cannot be misunderstood or manipulated.

To arrest a suspect without a warrant, police must have probable cause that they have engaged in criminal activity. An officer has probable cause to arrest when they have reasonable grounds to believe that the law was being violated.

Specifically, the Virginia court system explains that probable cause exists when there is “a reasonable ground of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a prudent and cautious man to believe that the accused is guilty of the offense with which he is charged.”

In Virginia, the ability to make a warrantless arrest, however, only applies to felony offenses and SOME misdemeanor matters such as Domestic Assault and Battery, Trespassing, and Petit Larceny, for example.

What is a felony crime?

A felony offense is a more serious type of crime that is punishable by more than a year and up to life imprisonment in a state prison. If the police have probable cause to believe that you are committing a felony offense, they can legally arrest you without a warrant. For example, if police witness you committing an armed robbery, they have the power to arrest you without the need for a warrant because the offense is serious, and apprehending you is in the best interests of the public.

Misdemeanor offenses

Misdemeanor crimes are minor offenses punishable by up to a year in a county jail. Generally speaking, police in Virginia are prohibited from making arrests for misdemeanor offenses that do not occur in their presence, without a warrant. There are, however, certain exceptions including but not limited to:

  • Assault and battery
  • Brandishing a firearm
  • Driving under the influence (DUI / DWI)
  • Boating under the influence
  • Carrying a prohibited weapon on school property
  • Shoplifting

In the event that you are arrested, it is important that you act respectfully to law enforcement. Be polite, listen to your Miranda rights, and CLEARLY ask to speak with a lawyer as soon as you are arrested. Your attorney can explain what is happening, protect your rights, and defend your freedom.

Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at The NoVa Law Firm

If you have a warrant out for your arrest and are unsure of how to proceed, consulting with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney is always a good idea. At The NoVa Law Firm, we have provided our clients with comprehensive and aggressive legal defenses for nearly 15 years. We take pride in protecting your rights as we work to resolve your case. For a free consultation, call us today at (703) 352-9347 or contact us online.

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About the Author: Eric Clingan

About the Author: Eric Clingan

Eric Clingan is an experienced Criminal Defense attorney and the founder of the NoVA Law firm. He focuses his practice on defending residents of Northern Virginia charged with DUIs, reckless driving, drug charges, and other criminal accusations

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