Monday, August 17, 2015

What Can I Do About an Old Arrest Warrant in California?

An outstanding arrest warrant will basically ruin your life until it is addressed.  Your old warrant will never simply go away on its own.  Luckily, you've already taken the first step toward fixing the problem -- you Googled it and you found this blog post.  Now, let's take the next steps to clear up this old headache for good.

Arrest warrants can be issued for a number of different reasons.  The most common situation we see arises when a defendant has failed to appear at a scheduled court date.  Maybe it was your fault -- you knew about it, but you were afraid appear.  Maybe you couldn't afford to miss work, you couldn't get a ride to court, or you had trouble arranging childcare for your kids.  Maybe it wasn't your fault at all -- someone else used your ID when he was arrested, or the DA mailed a "Notice to Appear" to a bad address.  Either way, the judge issued a bench warrant when you failed to appear.  Now you're a fugitive.  You can be arrested at your home, your workplace, or wherever the police happen to find you.

That's what we want to avoid.

To clear this warrant, your case must be added onto the court's calendar as soon as possible.  Different courts have different procedures for requesting calendar add-ons.  It's helpful to have a local attorney who understands the quickest, easiest way to get your case scheduled without unnecessary delays.

Once your case has been added onto the court's calendar, you or your attorney must appear before a judge to request that the warrant be "recalled".  In most misdemeanor cases, an attorney (like myself) can do all this without you being personally present.  I can save you the expense of traveling all the way back to California for a no-fun day in court.  Boarding an airplane with a revoked driver's license and an active warrant is another adventure you don't need.  Let me take care of your old California warrant and save yourself the trip.

Often, the judge will be unhappy that you've previously failed to appear for a scheduled hearing.  It costs the county time and money to issue warrants when defendants fail to appear.  The judge may require you to reimburse the county for those expenses.  He or she might also impose bail if you were previously free on your "own recognizance" ("O.R.").

When you (or your attorney) is standing before the judge and asking to recall your warrant, the judge must determine whether or not you should be considered a "flight risk".  If a judge decides that you are likely to disappear again, then your bail could be set very high.  To avoid this, it's important to have your warrant addressed as quickly as possible after it's issued.  If you have an outstanding warrant for 10 years before you make any effort to address it, the judge will not sympathize with you.  If, on the other hand, you show up in court very soon after learning about your warrant, the judge might be willing to show some lenience.

Retaining a private attorney to address your old warrant will also show the judge that you take the matter seriously and that you are not a flight risk.  People don't hire lawyers when they're planning to disappear.

As mentioned above, your warrant will not simply go away by ignoring it.  The statute of limitations does not apply if you have an outstanding warrant.  The "statute of limitations" ("SoL" for short), refers to the time between the commission of the crime and the filing of charges.  It does NOT refer to the time between the commission of the crime and your arrest / appearance in court.  If the DA has filed charges against you in a timely manner but you are not captured for several years, you will not be able to claim the protections of the SoL.  You might have other defenses, but the SoL is irrelevant in this situation.

If you or a loved one has an outstanding arrest warrant in California, call us for a free consultation.  (714) 449 3335.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.