The first thing you should do is contact an attorney.
When someone contacts my office in need of assistance with an outstanding warrant I will immediately research the situation and determine why the warrant was issued, who the judge is, and what the best legal strategy is to deal with the warrant. Knowing the reasons for the warrant, the nature of the charges, and your criminal history (if any), will help me assess the situation.
In most cases, I will then file a “Motion to Vacate Warrant” on your behalf, assuming that is the proper course of action given the specifics of your case. Once the motion is filed, the next step is to argue it in court and appear before your judge. After hearing argument, most judges will grant the motion and then order the warrant be lifted. In legal terms, this means the warrant is “vacated.”
Depending on the reason for the warrant, the nature of the charges, and the specific judge, you may or may not be required to appear in court. In many cases it is unnecessary for you to come to court if an attorney is handling the motion for you. However, you should realize that this is not a set rule and your particular judge may require your appearance.
This is why you need an attorney. Knowing the specifics and who the judge is will help me assess your situation and determine if your presence is required.
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At the most unexpected time, you will encounter law enforcement and your warrant will come up. This can happen during a traffic stop, an arrest, or when you re-enter the United States at an airport or when coming off a cruise ship.
It is much better to deal with these things on your own terms through an attorney’s office than from a jail cell in some unknown place at some unknown time in the future. Trust me; these things never come up at convenient times. Warrants do not expire and they do not go away on their own.
A warrant can be lifted by filing a “Motion to Vacate Warrant” or by being arrested on the warrant.
The easiest way is when a lawyer files a “Motion to Vacate Warrant” with your judge. Essentially, a motion to vacate asks the judge to lift the warrant. In many cases, a judge will agree to lift a warrant when he/she sees that the person has hired an attorney and is taking the necessary steps to deal with their case.
The second way a warrant is lifted is when you are arrested. Upon being arrested, law enforcement will update their computer systems to indicate that the warrant has been served. Once served, there is no outstanding warrant.
If you were arrested outside of the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued, you will remain in custody until the issuing jurisdiction decides whether or not to extradite you. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Meanwhile, you will remain in jail.
If the issuing jurisdiction decides to extradite you, then you will remain in jail throughout the entire process. Depending on how far away you are from the issuing jurisdiction, you may remain in jail for up to a month before returning to the issuing jurisdiction. Once in the issuing jurisdiction, your judge will decide whether or not to release you on bond.
Clearly, hiring a lawyer to deal with a warrant before you have a problem is the better way to go.
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