If you’re concerned that there may be a warrant out for your arrest in Virginia, you are likely anxious about what’s next. At Abrenio Law, we have clients call us often about this exact situation. That’s why we wrote this article.
Like any information we provide on this site, it is purely informational and not intended to be legal advice. Like any circumstance where you’re concerned about criminal liability, you need to speak to an attorney directly to be advised of your rights and obligations.
What should I do first?
Most importantly, take a deep breath and stay calm. We understand that the thought of being arrested is overwhelming. However, spinning out of control with dread will not help you. Instead, you need to create a plan. Here’s some things to think about.
Can I just get the warrant “quashed” before court?
The simple answer is no. Unfortunately, if a warrant has been issued for your arrest, there’s no mechanism to “quash” or terminate a warrant before court. Indeed, the court won’t know that there’s a charge (or charges) against you until you go to the magistrate, are booked, your paperwork is filed with the court clerk, and you are assigned a court date.
Therefore, there is no proactive motion (request for relief) you can make to the court before your case is processed. Unfortunately, if there is a warrant out for your arrest, you must turn yourself in.
How do I confirm whether there’s a warrant out for my arrest?
Many clients that call us learn of a possible warrant through word of mouth. Perhaps, you’ve heard that the person you just had a fight with claimed you assaulted them. Maybe someone is claiming that you stole from them or trespassed on their property. But you haven’t yet heard from law enforcement of an actual warrant.
To determine if there’s an active warrant, some jurisdictions, like Fairfax County, have “warrant desk” that you can call to ask. Other jurisdictions require you to appear in person.
Given that, it is best that you call an attorney to advise him or her of your situation, and you can develop a plan together. This plan may include retaining an attorney to assist you in turning yourself in.
If I turn myself in, what are the chances they won’t let me out immediately?
To be clear, with any warrant, there is a chance that you will not be given bond. And you will, therefore, be held in jail until an attorney can request a judge to let you out. However, as you might imagine, the circumstances of each case matter.
In determining whether to hold you a magistrate will consider various factors:
- The charge you are facing. Of course, the more serious the charge, the higher likelihood that you will not be immediately released. Indeed, in Virginia, there is a presumption against bond for certain charges. You can see a list of charges that carry a presumption against bond here.
- Your history. Another factor for the magistrate to consider is your history. This includes whether you have a criminal record, the nature of that record, whether you are employed, your family circumstances, and aspects of your background.
- Your ties to the community. The magistrate will also consider how close you are to the jurisdiction, such as family in the area, length of time you’ve lived there, and other indicators.
- Whether you’ve missed court before. This is a factor that the magistrate considers because he or she wants to ensure that you appear for your court date.
Whether the above factors are fair or scientific, is a topic for another day. This is simply how they consider bond decisions.
Ok, this is a lot. What are the next steps that I should take?
Talk to an attorney. As emphasized above, it is super important that you speak to an attorney about your circumstances. Even if you are not in a position to hire one, most attorneys will give you a “free consultation.” And the more information you possess the better.
Be prepared to assert your rights. Remember, anything you say can be used against you. Given that, you need to remember that turning yourself in does not extinguish your 5th Amendment Right to remain silent. While you will need to provide identifying information – such as name, address, and contact information – it does not require you to answer questions about your charges. Indeed, you should be prepared to clearly and affirmatively state that you are asserting your 5th Amendment right, that you cannot talk about the underlying charge, and that you are requesting an attorney.
Think about worst case scenarios. You should always be prepared in the event that you are held. Even if you are facing a misdemeanor and have no criminal record, you should take steps just in case. If you have children, make sure someone is available to look after them. If you need to be at work the following day, give someone a heads up that you might miss work (without disclosing the reason if at all possible). Whatever your circumstances, have a back up plan.
If you are ultimately released, well then you have not lost anything except a little time and effort.
Call a bondsman. In many instances, the magistrate will give you a bond that is more than you have in your pocket. For instance, if you’re granted a bond of $2,000, most people don’t have that money just sitting around. However, bonding companies are often willing to “post” your bond for 8%-10% of your bond amount. So, for example, they would require you to pay $200 for them to post your $2,000 bond.
There are a couple caveats. First, the money you pay them is non-refundable. So, you will not be returned that $200. Second, they will often require you or a family member to co-sign your promise to return to court. If you show up to court, then everything is fine. However, if you fail to show, whoever co-signed for you will owe that money or their assets will be seized to satisfy the amount owed.
If at all possible, hire an attorney.
I get it. Attorneys are expensive. However, in many instances, hiring an attorney can help facilitate the process. Indeed, when we are hired to help someone turn themselves in, we typically call law enforcement to let them know our client is cooperative and will voluntarily appear to be served with the arrest warrant. In many instances, we are permitted to talk directly the magistrate to provide useful information so assure them that our clients are taking the charge seriously, are not a danger ot the community or a flight risk, and are taking steps to proactively address the situation.
Of course, hiring an attorney early in a case does not guarantee that you will be granted bond and released. However, it can make a difference in close calls.
What is more, having an attorney retained means that if you aren’t granted bond, the attorney is aware of your circumstances and, in many instances, can help speed up a bond motion being filed with the court.
I’m not ready to turn myself in. Will it matter if I wait?
My rule of thumb is, the longer you wait, the worse off you are. The longer a warrant goes unserved, the more likely a magistrate is to think that you were evading service. That, in turn, makes you a possible flight risk, and less likely to come to court.
Further, remember that if a warrant is out for your arrest, you may end up having to turn yourself in “the hard way.” Indeed, many people end up getting pulled over for a speeding ticket or stopped while trying to board a plane, only to be taking into custody for an outstanding warrant.
In our view, you are in a much better position to proactively address an outstanding warrant by taking the necessary steps discussed above to turn yourself in.
Still have questions?
I’m sure you have additional questions about your case. Make sure to reach out to Abrenio Law at Ph. 703-570-4180. You can also learn more about Owner James Abrenio here.