Finding out that you have a warrant issued against you usually results in one of two scenarios. Either you were expecting this warrant, so you weren’t surprised when you found it, or you didn’t expect it and went into panic mode.
In any case, it’ll usually feel like you’re on borrowed time before you’ll eventually get caught by a police officer in a traffic stop or some other situation. As such, you might want to turn yourself in to resolve this matter on your own terms.
Besides, the courts often see those who turn themselves in willingly in a better light, so you’ll establish good standing with the judges more easily.
But that doesn’t mean you have to rush into turning yourself in, especially if you have an urgent matter. So read on to find out how long your grace period is.
The Short Answer
You can live normally with an active warrant against you, but you’ll likely always feel at least a deep fear of being caught in an awkward time. So it’s best to just turn yourself in at the court and be done with the warrant since most of them don’t have a statute of limitations.
A common misconception is that a warrant will eventually go away if you ignore it long enough, but this is false for most warrants.
The only warrants that may eventually go away are Ramey warrants, which can be re-issued. But for the rest, they’ll remain in place until they’re fulfilled, or the person in question dies.
How to Know if There’s a Warrant Issued Against You
IIn most cases, when a judge issues a serious warrant like an arrest, search, and bench warrant, your name will be added to the police’s database and all-points bulletin board. But they won’t notify you.
This may seem odd at first, but it’s to avoid people running away from arrest warrants or hiding contraband from search warrants, for example.
And unfortunately, people with good intentions often get caught in the crossfire of this preemptive legal measure.
But no matter, you can still find out if you have a warrant issued against you through various methods, as we’ll discuss below.
Search Online Databases
The internet is quick, convenient, and everywhere. So the easiest way to check for warrants issued against you is to simply do an online background check. It should show you warrants and other information about your criminal record.
However, make sure you avoid fishy websites because those can either give you misleading results at best or steal your info at worst.
Go to Your Local Police Department or US District Court
If you’d like to cut out the middleman for one reason or another, you can go directly to your local police department, which has a database of local warrants and should tell you if there’s one against you.
More broadly, though, is the United States District Court, which has a database of the entire district it serves.
Hire a Lawyer
The problem with going to the authorities directly to know if you have a warrant is that, in some cases, you’ll be forced to turn yourself in on the spot. Therefore, you might want to ask a close friend or relative to go and make the inquiry on your behalf.
Alternatively, the best action is to hire a lawyer to do the grunt work and avoid getting you into any trouble. Besides, you’ll likely need a lawyer for legal consultation and representation if you plan to turn yourself in anyway.
When to Turn Yourself In
Misconceptions Around Warrants
Some people think that they can outrun their warrants. But this is a huge misconception, as warrants don’t have an expiry date.
The only warrants that can expire are Ramey warrants, which are a special type similar to arrest warrants that don’t rely on the District Attorney. However, even if they expire, they can be renewed, or an arrest warrant can be issued alternatively.
Therefore, if you try to avoid a warrant, you’ll likely end up being caught sooner or later, perhaps at an inconvenient time when you’re not prepared. For instance, the police can storm in and catch you if it’s a serious arrest warrant during an important gathering or when you’re driving.
Or, in milder cases like bench warrants, you’ll be brought in upon your next encounter with the police, like in a traffic stop, for example.
Lawyers will also refuse to take your case if you aren’t planning to turn yourself in. In fact, they can’t take the case because they’ll be considered to be harboring a wanted person.
Why It’s Best to Turn Yourself in Early
To avoid all this hassle and the discomfort of living with the imminent threat of arrest, you’re better off hiring a lawyer and turning yourself in at the nearest police station or court.
Besides, the earlier you turn yourself in, the better your standing with the judge will be, giving you a necessary upper hand.
On the other hand, if you wait longer to turn yourself in or get caught by the police, it might look like you were evading the law, which certainly doesn’t look presentable in a trial.
This can also land you a harsher verdict, an increased bail, or an unfavorable bond decision, and the prosecutor will most likely use your lack of promptness against you.
Factors to Consider Before Turning Yourself In
Once you’ve finished any urgent business or family matters, you should consider a few things before rushing to the nearest police department to surrender.
Type of Warrant
The immediate outcome of turning yourself in is often a short jail period until you appear before a judge. First, however, you should know what kind of warrant is against you to prepare.
For example, maybe it’s a cost/green warrant because you didn’t pay your fines or other obligations, in which case you should show up with your cards or enough cash to pay it.
Talk to an Attorney
Many warrants can be cleared without spending time in jail. That’s why you should know the type of warrant against you.You should also hire a good attorney to set expectations and help you with the legal work that’ll follow once you’ve turned yourself in.
And if you do get in jail, an attorney is a good middleman between you and other helpful services, like bondsmen. Speaking of which…
Get a Bondsman
If you’re arrested, you likely won’t be able to leave until a judge or magistrate sets your bond. To set your bond, the magistrate will typically talk to you and consider factors like the severity of your conviction and how likely you are to run.
Your attorney can accompany you during this hearing to ensure you get the best bond set. And once it is, you’ll need a bondsman to sign the paperwork and guarantee your presence at the next hearing.
You’ll likely be in the station for a while, so wear some comfortable but presentable clothes.
Also, avoid bringing in items that you don’t need. That means leaving your wedding ring, accessories, cigarettes, lighter, pocket knife, etc.
And since you won’t have access to your mobile phone inside, you might want to bring a paper with emergency contacts just in case.