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The Top 5 Misconceptions on Criminal Warrants

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When law enforcement officers suspect that you have committed a crime, a judge will issue a criminal warrant for your arrest. This court order authorizes the police to arrest and detain you for the crime in question. It may also allow law enforcement to perform certain acts related to the case, such as searching your property. 

If you have an outstanding warrant, it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as you possibly can. There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding criminal warrants, and any missteps could result in serious potential consequences. A lawyer can help you separate fact from fiction.

#1: You Can Outrun a Warrant

One of the most common misconceptions about criminal warrants is that you can avoid or outrun the warrant altogether. Often, your first instinct is to distance yourself from the situation as much as possible. However, running from a warrant is a major mistake.

A warrant will not go away with time or distance. It will remain in effect until you are arrested and apprehended. Above all, the penalties may be harsher if you try to escape or conceal yourself during this period of time. You may not be able to get a plea deal, and the court is not likely to award bail. Because you would be deemed a flight risk, you will need to sit in jail until your case is resolved.

#2: You Can Avoid a Warrant by Moving Out of State

Many people often believe that if you move out of state, you cannot be arrested on a criminal warrant. However, this is not always the case. Police departments share information and have national databases where they can track outstanding warrants from across the country. 

All it takes is one traffic stop or a run-in with the police for the warrant to be found. In this situation, the police department may decide to extradite you to the state where the warrant originated.

#3: Warrants Expire After One Year 

A criminal warrant will not expire. Even if you received a citation several years ago, the warrant will still be outstanding. During this time, your case will simply be put on pause. The prosecutor will keep the case file, the evidence will be stored in a safe location, and the moment that you are apprehended, the case will begin again.

#4: No One Will Come After You for a Minor Charge

You may think that the prosecutor has bigger fish to fry than a low-level misdemeanor or citation. The truth is that if you have an outstanding warrant and the police apprehend you, you will be brought into the station and you will likely face penalties. The police may not conduct a large-scale search, but they will definitely notice an outstanding warrant if they come into contact with you.

#5: You Don’t Need a Lawyer to Handle a Warrant

If you are caught and arrested on a warrant, you may believe that you can represent your own case. You may believe that you can explain your case to the judge and have the charges dropped. However, this is not always the case—especially if you avoided the warrant for a long time.

A lawyer can help you file petitions or argue for your side of the story, helping reduce the penalties and, in some cases, getting the charges dropped. As soon as you are notified about the warrant, contact a Washington criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

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