If the police have come to your home or to an old address asking questions about your whereabouts, it is possible that there is a warrant for your arrest. If there is an active warrant, the police will not leave a card because they don’t want to tip you off and have you run. I am asked almost daily by people who want to know if there is a warrant for their arrest. This article will provide the steps to find out.
What Are the Steps to Take to Find Out if There Is a Warrant?
My first step in every case is to check the Pinellas County Clerk Of Court website. This is a public record, so anyone can search it. I enter the name of the defendant and see if any cases come up with a red W next to it. If nothing appears, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a warrant. If the prosecutor filed a charge directly without a person being arrested first, then the details of the case will only appear on the clerk’s website after the warrant has been served (ie., after the person is arrested on the warrant).
My second step is then to check with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. All warrants get reported only to this police agency. So, for example, if your charge occurred in St. Petersburg and was handled by St. Petersburg Police Department, that doesn’t matter. Only the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office would have a record of the warrant, not SPPD. I know that sounds confusing, but that is how the system works in Pinellas County. So, I call the Sheriff’s Office at (727) 582-6200. You can do this too. Ask for the warrants division. They will connect you with a warrants specialist. You will then need to give them a name and date of birth for the person you are searching for. If there is a warrant, they will be able to tell you when the warrant was issued, the charge, and how much the bond has been set. If there is no warrant, then there is only one other option.
What if There Is No Warrant, but You Think the Police Are Looking for You?
If there is no active warrant and you believe the police are still looking for you, this may mean that there is probable cause for your arrest. A probable cause arrest means that the police have conducted an investigation and have enough to arrest you for a crime. They are based solely on the discretion of the police. These types of arrests do not involve the prosecutor or the court system. The difficult part from a defense perspective is that there is no written record if a police officer has probable cause to arrest. The only thing that you can do is call the police department and ask if there is a case open. Normally, I can speak to the officer or detective involved. Usually, they will tell me if there is probable cause and ask for me to surrender my client. If the client does not surrender, then the case gets sent over to the State Attorney’s Office. If the prosecutor files a charge, then a warrant is issued for your arrest.
If There Is a Warrant, What Needs to Be Done?
If the warrant is for a felony, you will have to turn yourself in and be bonded out. Some people ask if it is possible to call the prosecutor and explain that the charge is a mistake or even to negotiate the bond. My answer is simple. The prosecutor will not negotiate a felony bond while it is pending. You must either turn yourself in directly to the judge who issued your capias or to the jail and then negotiate it. In these situations, I arrange for a “walk through” with a bail bondsman. This process usually takes only a few hours. A defendant is “booked” and then released. The normal charge to the bondsman is 10% of the bond.
Misdemeanors are different. There is no mandatory surrender on a misdemeanor case even if there is a warrant. I am often able to either appear before a judge or handle these warrants with paperwork through the mail. In most misdemeanor cases where there is a warrant, I can avoid jail time. If the defendant is out of state, I can usually resolve the case without the person even having to come to Pinellas County.
Contact an Arrest Warrant Attorney Who Specializes in Pinellas County
I have been practicing law solely in Pinellas County for over 20 years and cannot stress enough how important it is to hire someone who is familiar with the process in our county. There are many great lawyers throughout the state of Florida, but if he or she does not regularly practice law in Pinellas, there is no way that they will know the tricks of the trade here. If you have found a lawyer in Tampa who claims to handle cases in Pinellas, that is exactly what I am talking about. Do not hire a lawyer who is out of Pinellas County. There are only a handful of excellent lawyers in Pinellas County who know how to handle these cases and I happen to be one of them. If you want to talk about a strategy for your case, my consultations are always free. I guarantee that after a brief call with me, we can figure out a plan to resolve your warrant. One last piece of advice- if you have a warrant, don’t wait to resolve it contact an arrest warrant attorney now.