In the movies, someone having a warrant out for their arrest usually means some sort of high-speed chase is coming up, or maybe a SWAT team is en route to “have you surrounded.” It’s a very dramatic ordeal. Fast-paced, stressful, and life-ruining, it’s no wonder most people live in fear of receiving one for whatever reason. Here’s some good news: it’s not actually like that. Bad news? Well…it’s not always like that.
While no, you probably don’t need to worry about a swarm of cops descending upon your home at three in the morning, helicopters and all, you still need to worry about receiving a warrant. The issue is that, since this isn’t the media, it’s not too uncommon for people to have a warrant out for their arrest and simply not know about it. At least in the movies, it’s obvious. But ignoring a warrant doesn’t mean it goes away — and it does mean you might.
So — you find out there’s an outstanding warrant for your arrest. Now what?
How to find out if you have a warrant
I’m not going to lie; this is another good news/bad news situation. The good news is if you are expecting to be served a warrant for whatever reason, there are dozens of easily accessible websites that allow you to search for any outstanding ones under your name. You can also go to any police station and simply ask — which shows good faith even if the answer is yes. If you really don’t want to do that, though, information like warrants are public and free.
Now, here’s the bad news. If you don’t expect to be served a warrant, you’ll have no reason to search online for one, nor will you have reason to go to a police station (hopefully). In these circumstances, the only way to find out if there’s a warrant out for your arrest is, well, the hard way.
Don’t brush off the likelihood of this happening quite yet. Remember Blockbuster? More importantly, remember their late fees? Now, imagine that movie you rented once 20 years ago never actually got returned, and only upon trying to legally change your name did you find out that this little slip-up means you have a warrant out for your arrest for felony embezzlement. It may sound far-fetched, but that’s exactly what happened to one woman and several others like her.
The problem is that while having a warrant out for a violent crime means cops are actively seeking you out, non-violent warrants typically don’t get “cashed in” unless you get pulled over or otherwise legally confronted for a, usually, entirely unrelated issue. So if you drive flawlessly and never get involved with the police, there’s a decently-sized chance you could go decades with an outstanding warrant and simply not know, and because you don’t know, you have no reason to ever check and find out.
What do I do if I have an outstanding warrant?
For the love of Pete, don’t ignore it. Do not ignore it.
Look at me. Look at me in my eyes. Use my bio page if you have to.
Do. NOT. Ignore. A. Warrant.
I know it’s scary. Especially if you don’t understand the charges against you or why you have them, I know it’s so tempting to just pretend you didn’t see anything, but I promise you this will make absolutely nothing easier in the long run, and it absolutely will not make it go away.
Warrants do not expire. Felony warrants especially so, but even misdemeanor warrants can be easily re-issued if they’re given an expiration date. It doesn’t matter if it’s been decades — you can still get brought in with them. Not only that, but courts are way more likely to be lenient and understanding if you have genuine ignorance, and not as much so if you’ve been playing fugitive for years. And yes, that IS what you are doing if you find out you have a warrant and decide to pretend otherwise for the next couple decades.
Instead, if you’ve found out there’s an outstanding warrant under your name, regardless of how you found out or how long it’s been, the best thing for you to do is get legal help. While an attorney may not be able to prevent you from being detained, they can go over the details of your case with both you and the court to see what can be done about it.
Even in the case of Blockbuster Lady, her charges were dropped pretty immediately, but having that warrant on her public record for so long did untold damage to her employability and personal life. The right attorney can work to get those records expunged — right after they work to help you avoid conviction entirely. Every legal situation is different, but getting as much assistance as possible is always the right answer. That’s how you protect your rights, your family, and your future.
If you’re worried about an outstanding warrant or are facing any charges you don’t deserve to face, the Annapolis defense attorneys at Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law are here for you with compassionate, knowledgeable representation in both Ellicott City and Annapolis. We’re not looking to blame or shame you; we’re looking to help you get your life back — and it’s never too early to do that. For more information on what we can do for you, call us today at 410-271-1892 or fill out our online contact form.
And remember — Keep Calm and Call Drew!