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Turning Yourself In for a Misdemeanor Warrant: What to Expect

If you have an active misdemeanor warrant out for your arrest, it’s generally advisable to turn yourself in to the authorities. However, before doing so, you should contact an attorney to better understand your legal rights and options.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

What is a Misdemeanor Warrant?

A misdemeanor warrant is a legal order issued by a judge authorizing your arrest for a misdemeanor offense. Unlike in felony cases, a misdemeanor warrant does not require the same level of “probable cause” or evidence to justify the arrest. Simply the issuance of a misdemeanor warrant by a judge is enough for law enforcement to arrest you if you come into contact with them.

Bench Warrant vs Arrest Warrant

In most states, there are two types of warrants: bench warrants and arrest warrants. Both allow law enforcement to apprehend you, but they serve different purposes.

Bench Warrants
Bench warrants are issued by a judge from the bench, typically for violations such as failure to appear in court, failure to comply with court orders, or failure to pay fines. They are not related to the commission of a new crime but rather to procedural or court-related issues.

Arrest Warrants
Arrest warrants are issued when the court deems law enforcement should arrest a person for an initial crime. This is the kind of warrant for which law enforcement needs probable cause. The police must have evidence that the person in question may have committed the crime for an arrest warrant to be issued.

Also Read: California Misdemeanor Warrant Expiration Date

How Do I Know if I Have a Warrant for my Arrest?

According to SCLG, to check if there’s a warrant for your arrest, you can conduct a search through specific websites where warrants are listed [1]. Once a judge issues an arrest warrant, it’s entered into a database accessible to the public.

You can search:

  • The local sheriff’s website,
  • The local court’s website, or
  • The website of the Superior Court of your state.

Further, people can always consult with a criminal defense attorney to learn the status of an arrest warrant. A skilled defense lawyer can not only provide information as to the presence of a warrant, but the attorney can also advise a party on the best way to handle the warrant if one exists.

How Long Does a Warrant Stay Active?

An arrest warrant for a misdemeanor remains active until it’s cleared, the suspect is arrested, or they pass away, meaning warrants never expire. However, if the criminal statute of limitations (SOL) expires, the case may be dismissed due to time limitations. In most states, the SOL for misdemeanors is generally one year from the offense.

It’s important to note that arrest and bench warrants do not expire. Once issued, law enforcement can execute a warrant during encounters such as a traffic stop. Misdemeanor warrants stay active indefinitely and typically appear on background checks, potentially leading to a driver’s license suspension by the DMV.

Misdemeanor warrants will not typically result in law enforcement officers visiting the neighborhood to look for you. Instead, police will wait until they encounter you, such as at a routine traffic stop. While there could be a delay in executing the warrant, the offense leading to the warrant is still subjected to the criminal statute of limitations.

How Do You Turn Yourself In?

When you turn yourself in to the police, you typically visit your local police station and speak to an officer to provide your details and inform them that you are a suspect for an offense.

However, before you attend the police station, especially if there is little evidence against you or you deny the offense, it may be wise to consult with legal counsel to avoid inadvertent admissions that could be used against you. Anything you say upon arrival may be recorded and used against you later.

After you report the offense at the police station, the police may take several actions based on the nature of the offense and surrounding circumstances. They may arrest you immediately, or they may invite you for a voluntary interview, also known as an interview under caution. This interview could occur immediately or be scheduled for a later date.

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