If you are concerned that you or someone you know or want to employ has a warrant, then you need to find out the truth quickly before things spiral out of control. No one is required to notify you of a warrant, so it’s up to you to act and get the information you need to make decisions that will help you get the best outcome. This article will guide you through everything you need to know about criminal arrest warrants, how to check if you or someone you know has a warrant in Missouri, and what you should do if you are the subject of an arrest warrant. If you’re concerned about a current warrant you have – call Combs Waterkotte at 314-578-1465 today and we can do a free warrant search for you to see if you have an active warrant for your arrest.
What is a Warrant?
An arrest warrant authorizes the arrest and detention (for 24 hours without formally issuing a charge) of someone by any law enforcement officer who comes across that person. A warrant is issued by a judge or magistrate and the agent or officer involved must attain a sworn affidavit showing probable cause exists that a specific crime was committed by the person(s) named in the warrant.
A warrant is often required for misdemeanors that do not occur within view of a police officer, though is usually not needed to arrest someone for a felony since this can mean that the person who committed the felony is a danger to others or a flight risk.
The warrant process goes like this:
Judge issues order > Court Records Unit creates the document > Warrant Division inputs information into various computer systems > apprehension of subject > court appearance.
What Kinds of Warrants Are There?
There are a few different types of warrants and they all represent different situations and different consequences, which you’ll find listed below in alphabetical order.
- Alias Warrant – this is issued when a subject fails to appear in court for a scheduled court date before any plea has been entered, or if a subject fails to respond to a citation or by mail. Failure to appear is an added charge.
- Bench Warrant – this is a variant of an arrest warrant and is usually issued when a subject fails to appear for a required court appearance.
- Capias Warrant – this is issued when a subject has a guilty judgment either through a court appearance, plea, or arraignment in jail, and fails to pay a fine or complete specific conditions within a required time period.
- Civil Capias Warrant – this is a special kind of apprehension order, issued in civil court cases where the defendant repeatedly fails to comply with the judge’s orders. These can also be called “Body Attachments” and “Mittimuses”, and are different to criminal warrants since they aren’t issued to arrest anyone, but instead get them to the court for the hearing.
- Criminal Warrant – this is issued when someone is suspected of a crime and there is enough probable cause to arrest them.
- Fugitive Warrant – this is issued by another state when a suspect is believed to be within a certain jurisdiction.
- Governor’s Warrant – this is issued by the Governor’s office so the suspect, who committed a SIGNMEUPcrime in a different state, may be arrested within another and transported back.
- Search Warrant – a search warrant is a little different than the others. The fourth amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizure of their person, vehicle or places. For an officer or agent to attain a search warrant, there must be probable cause and they must attain a sworn affidavit. This kind of warrant simply means they have probable cause to search what they want in the way they want, it’s not a warrant against you, though obviously they wouldn’t attain a search warrant if there wasn’t an ongoing investigation in which they suspect you of a crime.
How Serious is a Warrant?
A warrant is serious and it means any police officer can take you into custody at any time. You should act quickly if you discover there is one out on you. A warrant will leave you with a criminal record and that last for your lifetime. In Missouri, having a warrant will affect your ability to get a bank loan, and many employers run potential employee names through a criminal search to learn about their past, and having a warrant will likely affect your employability.
What Happens When a Warrant is Placed On Me?
When a police officer has probable cause that a suspect committed a certain crime, they approach a judge to issue an arrest warrant. This means any law enforcement officer who comes across you has the right to take you into custody.
Will the Court Notify Me?
They might, but it’s not likely, and it’s not required. If you do receive a letter then they are allowing you the chance to take care of the warrant yourself, but if you have an arrest warrant then they will want to take you into custody, not wait for you to turn yourself in. That’s why if you discover you have a warrant out for your arrest you should contact a lawyer and act as quickly as possible.
How Do I Check if I Have a Warrant Out For My Arrest?
The Missouri state system maintains a statewide public database that you can use to search for parties, court judgment, and charges in the public court system. The easiest way to check for warrants in Missouri is to search the public record online or call the sheriff’s office in the county the warrant may be issued. You can visit Case.net and input someone’s last name, then click on the tab for docket entries to see any warrants. You can also narrow your search by city, county, type of warrant, and alias information.
Be aware that some kinds of cases are not on public record, such as domestic violence offenses and juvenile offenders, so you will need to hire an attorney to search these cases on your behalf. Most, but not all St. Louis criminal defense lawyers have access to certain law enforcement databases that will be able to confirm whether there is an active warrant.
Can I Find Out if a Friend, Family Member or Prospective Employee Has a Warrant?
Yes, if you need or want to check if a friend, family member or prospective employee has a warrant you can do this the same way you would search for one on yourself, though be aware that certain warrants, such as those for domestic violence charges, are kept from the public record and require an attorney to discover.
Do Warrants Ever Go Away?
The short answer is: no. You may move away and not hear anything about it for many years, but it only takes an officer to pull you over for speeding and look you up on their system to discover the warrant. Warrants do not expire and remain outstanding until you pass away or if the judge recalls it for some other reason.
What Should I Do if I Have a Warrant?
Don’t ignore it. Try to address your warrant as soon as possible, and it’s recommended you seek a lawyer for legal help immediately. They will be able to advise you on the best way to move forward and attain the best outcome for you and your case. Most importantly, if you retain an attorney before the warrant is issued but you know one is coming, they can immediately file an entry of appearance on your case and start negotiating a bond reduction on your behalf. It is much easier to have an attorney on retainer before you find yourself sitting in jail with a high bond.
Another issue, that arises regularly is if you are caught with a controlled substance, law enforcement will book and release you without a court date. This is because before law enforcement can apply for a warrant the suspected narcotics must be sent to the crime/drug lab to be tested, and this lab sheet must show that what you possessed was indeed a controlled substance. These lab tests can take 4-10 months depending on which jurisdiction you are in and how backed up the lab is at that point in time. Many clients call in a panic or find themselves under arrest for something that happened nearly a year ago. There are other reasons why you want to have a lawyer on retainer before the warrant is issued.
- You must appear in court for your hearing unless you have a good reason why you are unable to, which will be explained to the judge in your absence, and they will reschedule your court date. Failure to appear is a crime and they may fine you or even take you into custody should you fail to appear at your court hearing.
- To have a bench warrant cleared you must appear in court personally, with your attorney, or your attorney’s appearance on your behalf. If the warrant is for a felony then you must personally appear no matter what.
If you have a Capias warrant, then you can resolve it by paying the fine in full, or to be released from jail for “time served” by remaining in jail until enough jail credit has been earned.
What Happens if I Turn Myself In?
Deciding to turn yourself will always work in your favor, though it is wise to speak to an attorney first so you know what to do and say, especially when appearing in court. If you have a bench warrant then turning yourself in and appearing before a judge sooner rather than later will help you get it lifted quickly.
Whether you have an attorney or not, you must explain your behavior satisfactorily, and your decision to turn yourself in should reflect well on you. Once you have legal representation, it is much easier to turn yourself in than be caught and taken into custody by police officers.
If you have a warrant out against you in the St. Louis Metro area, Combs Waterkotte is here to help. We are a criminal defense and personal injury law firm experienced in all areas of criminal defense and can assist you with your case, help you make the best decisions and discover any outstanding warrants you have. If you are worried you have a warrant out for your arrest or have discovered you have one in the St. Louis Metro area, don’t hesitate to call us at (314) 900-HELP or contact us today to arrange a free consultation as soon as possible.