What does it mean when someone has a warrant?
It means there is a court order for that person’s arrest.
When a judge issues a warrant, he/she signs a piece of paper that commands law enforcement to arrest a specific person. This paper is then entered into a computer system that is accessible by all law enforcement officers in the United States. This includes local police, border patrol, immigration, FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, the military, and ICE… just to name a few. The reason why the judge wants someone arrested can vary depending on the circumstances.
Will I stay in jail if I have a warrant?
In some cases yes, in other cases no.
An attorney can help get the warrant lifted before you are taken into custody, depending on the circumstances. An attorney can also ask for a bond once you have been taken into custody on a warrant. In fact, some warrants already have bonds written into them.
However, many warrants do not have any bond and if you are arrested, you will remain in jail until a judge sets bond or your case is resolved. When a person is arrested on a no-bond warrant, only the judge who issued the warrant or the division judge assigned to the case will be the one to address bond. In other words, magistrate judges (first appearance judges) typically will not order bonds on no-bond warrants issued by other judges. This is typically the case when a person fails to appear for court or has violated probation.
Why would a warrant be issued?
There are many reasons why a warrant may be issued by a judge. The following list contains some of the most common reasons:
- Failure to appear in court
- Bond violations
- New charges were filed against you
- Prosecutors filed amended charges
- Contempt of court
- Failure to comply with a court order
- Not in custody capias
- Violation of probation
- Violation of community control (house arrest)
- Violation of pre-trial release
Failure to Appear Capias
One of the most common reasons why a warrant is issued is due to failure to appear in court. This happens when a person is arrested and fails to show up for their court date. In other cases a person might be issued a citation for a criminal traffic offense or misdemeanor like possession of marijuana and not show up for court.
The reasons why people do not show up are many. The most common are because they never received notice of the hearing, were in custody in another jail or prison on another case, forgot about court, were preoccupied with other personal problems, came late and missed court, or were simply irresponsible.
If a warrant was issued because you failed to appear in court, getting your warrant lifted is usually very easy. In most cases, a judge will lift the warrant as soon as he/she sees that you hired an attorney and are taking steps to be responsible and address your case. Of course, your lawyer will need to file a “Motion to Vacate Warrant” in order to get the warrant lifted. Again, it will be up to your judge and there is no guarantee that the warrant will be lifted or you will be released on bond. It will all depend on the specifics of your case, your background, and the particular judge presiding over the case.
New Charges Filed
In other cases, a person may have an outstanding arrest warrant because they have been charged with a crime. Depending on the nature of the crime, you may or may not have a bond attached to the warrant. For crimes that are punishable by life in prison, bond will not be included. However, non-life felonies will typically have a bond. If you are charged with a life felony, an attorney will need to file a motion for an “Arthur Hearing” which is a special type of hearing that specifically deals with bond in life felonies. Examples of life felonies include: Sexual Battery, Burglary with Battery, and Homicide.