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California Misdemeanor Warrant: No Expiration Date!

In California, misdemeanor warrants generally remain active indefinitely until they are resolved. This means that the warrant remains in effect until the individual is arrested or voluntarily appears in court to address the underlying legal issue.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

What is a Misdemeanor Warrant in California?

A warrant for a misdemeanor is a formal paper sanctioned by a magistrate, empowering police officers to detain a person and present them to the tribunal for a misdemeanor charge.

It doesn’t require “probable cause” or proof that you committed a crime, the basic fact that a judge issued a Misdemeanor Warrant is sufficient to arrest upon any contact with law enforcement.

How are California Arrest Warrants Issued?

In California, warrants can be issued through two primary avenues:

  1. Upon Declaration by Law Enforcement or the District Attorney – When law enforcement suspects your involvement in a crime not witnessed by them, they may seek an arrest warrant based on probable cause. This legal standard necessitates a reasonable belief in your involvement in criminal activity. Following evidence gathering, the officer presents the case to a judge, who reviews the evidence. If the judge agrees that probable cause exists for both the commission of a crime and your involvement, they issue the warrant.
  2. After Grand Jury Indictment – A less common scenario involves a grand jury indictment. In this process, a grand jury assesses evidence to determine if there’s enough basis for the prosecutor to charge you with a crime. If the grand jury finds probable cause to support the allegations against you, they issue an indictment. Subsequently, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest based on this indictment.

How are California Arrest Warrants Served?

Time constraints dictate the execution of arrest warrants to prevent violations of the right to a speedy trial. Misdemeanor warrants, for instance, are subject to execution between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm unless specifically authorized for nighttime service.

However, this rule may not apply if the arrest is made in a public place, the defendant is already in custody, or the arrest doesn’t necessitate a warrant as per PC §836 & 837. On the other hand, felony warrants are executable at any time according to PC 840.

Law enforcement holds the authority to enter a suspect’s residence to execute an arrest warrant, particularly if there’s probable cause to believe the suspect is present. However, if the suspect is a mere guest, a search warrant is typically required for entry.

Following an arrest, the defendant must promptly appear before the appropriate magistrate, typically within 48 hours, barring holidays or weekends. Delays beyond this timeframe may be deemed unreasonable, as established in the case of Youngblood v. Gates, where unnecessary investigative procedures causing delays were disallowed within the 48-hour window.

In cases of misdemeanor traffic violation arrest warrants, defendants often sign a promise to appear instead of being taken into custody, as outlined in PC 818.

What Happens to My California Arrest Warrant if I Leave the State?

According to SCLG, if you’re aware that the courts are seeking you and you choose to flee, you’ll be labeled a “fugitive from justice,” irrespective of your innocence in the charges [1]. Fugitives, regardless of the reasons for their departure, are subject to extradition, necessitating their return to the state or country where the alleged offense occurred.

Extradition, in its simplest terms, is the process of transporting a fugitive from their location of hiding back to the state or country in which their alleged offense was committed. Basically, this means that if you run…and are caught…you will not only still face your criminal charges, but will also face an enhanced penalty for fleeing from the court.

Conversely, if you were unaware of the warrant against you, you might not be classified as a fugitive. This distinction could impact the manner and timing of your return to California to address the pending charges.

Navigating the intricacies of California’s extradition laws requires a nuanced understanding of legal complexities. Before extradition proceedings commence, you’re entitled to a hearing to contest the process. Seeking counsel from a seasoned criminal defense attorney well-versed in extradition matters is pivotal to effectively challenge an extradition order.

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