How to Deal with an Outstanding Warrant

You’ve heard the term warrant before, and you may know the difference between an arrest warrant and a bench warrant. But do you know what an outstanding warrant is and how it can affect your life?

What is an Outstanding Warrant?

Judges have the power to issue a warrant for your arrest for many reasons. One is if you are scheduled to appear in court and do not show up. That is called a bench warrant. If law enforcement suspects that you committed a crime, a judge may issue an arrest warrant then too.

An outstanding warrant is a warrant that has been issued for your arrest that is never completed. For example, perhaps you are unavailable, or police cannot locate you to arrest you. It does not matter; the arrest may stay on your record indefinitely until police stop you for a moving violation or some other offense, and then you will be arrested and taken to jail.

Identity theft can also lead to an outstanding warrant. Imagine that some stranger steals your identity and applies for a driver’s license with your name on it. Then the identity thief commits a crime and gives the police your name, and now there is an outstanding warrant for you, and you don’t even know it.

If you fail to show up in court even for a minor infraction like a moving violation, a judge could issue a bench warrant for you. Along with being arrested, you could face additional charges, steep fines, and even jail time. If the charge was a vehicle-related one, the court could also decide to revoke your driver’s license. Not showing up for court has severe consequences and can result in outstanding warrants that you do not know about.

Do I Have a Warrant? (State or Federal)

Even if you are completely innocent, it’s a good idea to know how to check if you have a warrant out for your arrest. With so many data breaches in recent years, at least some of your information is probably on the dark web for sale. An identity thief could use that information to commit crimes in your name, resulting in an outstanding warrant for you.

Regardless of whether you have an outstanding bench or arrest warrant, police will take you to jail if you are caught. So, the first thing to do is check to see if you have any outstanding warrants and then fix the problem. You have a few options when searching for outstanding warrants.

  • One option to find out if you have an outstanding warrant is to contact the court that issued it. You may be able to go online and search for the court clerk’s name and contact information.
  • If your warrant is a federal one, you can check the U.S. federal court website and look for information on how to handle an outstanding warrant.
  • You can easily use a third-party company to check arrest records for outstanding warrants in your name. These companies pull public records from dozens of public and private sources and show you whether there are any state or federal warrants out for you. A search only takes a couple of minutes.

What to Do if You Have a Warrant

If you do find any outstanding warrants on yourself, you will need to resolve the issue quickly.  Steps to take if you have a warrant out in your name are:

1. Contact the Court

If you contact the court and the arrest or bench warrant is not severe, they may allow you to schedule a hearing to process the charges instead. However, in most cases, you may have to spend some time in jail first.

2. Pay the Bail

If you are arrested and taken to jail, you will appear before a judge to set a bail amount. If you are not a flight risk, you could pay the bail (if you or your family can afford it) and get out of jail until your trial.

3. Post a Bond

If you are considered a flight risk or the warrant is a bench warrant because you did not show up in court when you were supposed to, the judge may set a high bail. You can post a bond (meaning get a bail bond agent to pay your bail so you can get out of jail). However, you will have to agree to show up in court, or you will owe the bail bondsman the money they paid along with a hefty fee. They are taking a chance on you showing up and trusting you to follow the law.

4. Quash Your Warrant

You could also file a motion to quash a warrant which means you ask the court to find a warrant “invalid” for some reason. For example, if you are the victim of identity theft and didn’t commit the crime, this would be an excellent strategy to clear your name. However, the courts require you to file specific paperwork to quash a warrant, and you will have to wait while the courts gather evidence to support invalidating it.

5. Turn Your Self In

Another option is to turn yourself into local police. If you do this, things may go smoother, especially if you are guilty of the crime. However, you can expect to spend time in jail and be fully processed (booked) until courts resolve the issue with a hearing, trial, or dropping the charges.

6. Find a Good Attorney

Before making any decisions regarding your outstanding warrant, it is a good idea to consult with a good defense attorney. They can advise you on the best course of action to resolve the issue as smoothly as possible.

Outstanding warrants can potentially ruin your life. Outstanding warrants could make it impossible for you to get jobs, rent property, join the military, or even sign up for school. Therefore, you need to perform a background check on yourself now to see if anything comes up so you can deal with it quickly to resolve the issue.