What Should I Do If There's a Warrant Out for My Arrest in Florida?
As Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers, we are contacted occasionally by people who have learned or have reason to believe they may have an active Florida arrest warrant. The precise course of action in these situations varies from case-to-case, but in general, reaching out to a lawyer first is the most prudent move.What Exactly is a Warrant?
There are several types of warrants. Generally speaking though, a warrant is an official document issued by a legal or government official that authorizes the police or another entity to make an arrest, detain a person, conduct a search, or carry out some other action that relates to the administration of justice.
F.S. 901.02 dictates the issuance of arrest warrants in Florida. There are two broad types of warrants: Felony and misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by less than 1 year in jail. Felonies are more serious crimes punishable by a minimum of 1 year in prison.
More specifically, there are:
- Bench warrants. These are issued directly by a judge, typically for failure to appear in court or pay a fine. An FTA might not seem like a big deal, but even one issued in a misdemeanor case can carry a penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine in its own right.
- Probable cause warrants. Issued by a judge at the request of law enforcement after the judge examines the complaint and submitted proof.
- Pick up orders. These are issued by a judge for juvenile offenses.
- Out-of-state warrants/Out-of-county warrants. These are warrants issued by a judge outside the jurisdiction.
- Direct capias. This is a writ prepared by the Clerk of Circuit Court or prosecuting attorney when it’s deemed necessary to procure the presence of the defendant for adjudication of guilt or pronouncement of a sentence. This is allowable under Rule 3.730 of Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure.
- Probation violations.
- Direct file arrest warrant. These are issued by the prosecutors (state attorneys) with a finding of probable cause.
- Civil warrants. These are issued when there is some failure to follow court rules for things like staying current on your child support or paying fines.
As noted in Rule 3.121, Florida arrest warrants must be in writing, set forth substantially the nature of the offense, command the defendant to be arrested and brought before a judge, specify the name of the person or descriptors by which they can be identified with reasonable certainty, indicate the county and date, be signed by a judge, and indicate the bail amount for the offense (if applicable).
Police don’t always need a warrant to make an arrest, but they cannot issue arrest warrants on their own authority. A warrant application, also known as an affidavit, must be submitted by the requesting officer/agency to a judge (or in some cases, a prosecutor) for review. These affidavits must be written. They are often lengthy, reading like a full narrative of the investigation. They must explain the basis for probable cause to believe a crime was committed.
Electronic warrants can sometimes be obtained within a few hours, though it could take days.
If police arrest someone without a warrant (which can be done in circumstances explained in F.S. 901.15), the defendant must be afforded a hearing before a judge within 24 hours.
Outstanding Florida warrants don’t expire, can’t be paid off, and will show up on background checks. They can also be flagged by cruise lines and airport TSA. (Many people end up getting arrested on Florida arrest warrants when they try to get on an airplane or cruise ship.)
If you know or suspect there is a warrant out for your arrest in Florida, it’s almost never in your best interest to“wait and see” and just “hope for the best.” Being proactive about confirming and responding to a warrant can broaden your legal options and defenses.How Can a Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer Help?
If there is a Florida arrest warrant out for you, a criminal defense attorney can help:
- Confirm the existence of a warrant. If there is a warrant out for your arrest, chances are good you have NOT been notified of it. Largely, this is because police want to preserve the element of surprise and avoid the risk of defendants fleeing or hiding. That said, warrants can sometimes be confirmed through public online databases (FDLE, Florida Criminal Information Center Public Records Search Page, or the local sheriff’s office website). It might also be found by directly contacting the court or law enforcement agency that issued it. If an officer is holding a warrant before entering it into the public database, this is referred to as a “pocket warrant.” A defense lawyer can sometimes get pocket warrants withdrawn by contacting the investigating officer and presenting your side or providing evidence of false accusations or mistaken identity.
- Determine the type of warrant. The type of warrant in your case will have some bearing on the best way to respond.
- Develop a defense strategy. We will work to resolve that warrant on the best possible terms most favorable to you. We will advocate for removal of the warrant, if at all possible.
- Facilitate your safe, peaceful surrender. If a warrant cannot be removed, voluntary surrender is usually advisable. We can sometimes negotiate with police to avoid active pursuit by agreeing to a time/date of surrender so that you have a bit of time to get your affairs in order before doing so. (This is especially important if you think you might not be able to make bail once you’re in custody.) If you don’t turn yourself in, you’re at risk of being arrested any time, anywhere, in any situation. Voluntary surrender allows you to avoid a sudden traumatizing or stressful arrest at your home, school, or workplace. Planned surrenders also tend to be much safer than on-the-street encounters. Talking to an attorney prior to surrender offers the benefit of knowing exactly what NOT to say if police or corrections officers start asking questions.
- Ensure you surrender to the correct location. If you surrender yourself to the wrong agency, you might end up spending more time behind bars than you might otherwise because they’ll have to process an extradition to the correct jurisdiction.
- Navigate the extradition process. Out-of-town residents with active felony warrants navigate the extradition process with less hassle and risk. In some cases - especially if the warrant is old or relates to minor offenses or a probation violation - we can contact the prosecutor and argue against extradition or in favor of dropping the charges.
- Fight the underlying charges. Our Broward criminal defense team is among the best in Southeast Florida. We are committed to fighting to protect your rights and freedoms and minimizing the impact this warrant and related charges will have on your life.
For minor offenses, your defense lawyer might be able to clear a warrant by appearing in court on your behalf. For felony offenses though, your personal presence is likely required.
Once you appear in court, the judge may decide to release you with a warning or set a bond you must pay prior to release.
If you think there might be a warrant out for your arrest in Florida, our Broward criminal defense lawyers can help you determine your next steps.
Schedule a free initial consultation with The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011.