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By Michael Arbeit
Founding Attorney

If you find yourself unsure about your warrant status and want to address the issue proactively, this comprehensive guide will provide you with the necessary information. As an experienced criminal defense attorney in New York, Michael A. Arbeit understands the significance of staying informed and taking the right steps to protect your rights and interests. 

Understanding Warrants in New York:

What types are warrants are there?

Arrest Warrant: An arrest warrant is issued by a judge or magistrate when law enforcement officers have provided sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that a person has committed a crime. This authorizes the police to arrest and detain the individual named in the warrant.

Bench Warrant: A bench warrant is typically issued by a judge when an individual fails to appear in court as required. It is often issued for minor offenses, such as traffic violations, or for individuals who have violated the conditions of their probation or parole. This allows law enforcement to arrest the person and bring them before the court.

Search Warrant: A search warrant is issued by a judge or magistrate and allows law enforcement officers to search a specific location, such as a home, vehicle, or business premises. To obtain this legal document, law enforcement must demonstrate probable cause that evidence of a crime or contraband is likely to be found in the location to be searched.

Extradition Warrant: An extradition warrant is issued when a person who is wanted for a crime in one jurisdiction is located in another jurisdiction. It is a legal document that authorizes the transfer of the individual from the jurisdiction where they were apprehended to the jurisdiction that issued the warrant.

Civil Warrant: A civil warrant is issued in civil cases, typically to enforce judgments or court orders. It may be used, for example, to seize property or assets to satisfy a debt or enforce child support payments.

It’s always advisable to consult the specific laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdiction for more accurate and detailed information.

How are warrants issued?

Warrants are issued through a process involving law enforcement officers presenting evidence of probable cause to a judge or magistrate. This evidence is typically provided in the form of a written affidavit detailing the facts and circumstances justifying the warrant. The judge reviews the affidavit and, if satisfied, signs the warrant, authorizing law enforcement to carry out specific actions, such as making an arrest or conducting a search. Warrants must be specific about the person or property to be targeted, and they have an expiration date. It’s important to note that certain exceptions exist where law enforcement can take action without a warrant.

How long are warrants valid in New York?

In New York, arrest warrants do not have a specific expiration date and remain valid until the person named in the warrant is arrested or until the warrant is canceled by the court. When there is probable cause to believe that an individual has committed a crime, a judge can issue an arrest warrant, and it remains in effect until the person is apprehended. It’s crucial to recognize that a warrant remains enforceable regardless of the nature of the alleged offense, whether minor or non-violent.

How long could you stay in jail for missing a court appearance in New York?

The duration of jail time for missing court due to a warrant in New York can vary depending on several factors, including the specific circumstances of the case, the nature of the offense, and the judge’s discretion. When an individual fails to appear in court as required, a bench warrant may be issued for their arrest. Once apprehended, they are typically brought before the court for a hearing. During this hearing, the judge may consider various factors, such as the reason for the missed court appearance, the individual’s criminal history, and the seriousness of the underlying charges. Based on these factors, the judge may choose to impose penalties, which can range from a release on their own recognizance, a monetary fine, or, in more severe cases, a period of incarceration. Ultimately, the length of time spent in jail for a warrant for missing court in New York will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the judge presiding over the matter.

Signs That You Might Have a Warrant:

 There are several signs that you might have a warrant. While these signs do not guarantee the existence of a warrant, they can indicate the need for further investigation or clarification. Here are some common signs to be aware of:

  1. Unresolved Legal Issues: If you have had past arrests, criminal charges, or pending cases that have not been fully addressed, there is a possibility that a warrant may have been issued related to those matters.
  2. Missed Court Appearances: Failing to appear in court as required, whether for a scheduled hearing, trial, or other legal proceedings, can lead to the issuance of a bench warrant. This type of warrant is issued when an individual does not show up in court as mandated.
  3. Law Enforcement Contact: If you have had recent encounters with law enforcement officers, such as being questioned about a specific incident or asked about your whereabouts, it could suggest that there might be a warrant associated with your name.
  4. Unusual Surveillance or Private Investigations: Unexplained surveillance activities or instances where private investigators are trying to gather information about you could indicate that someone is looking for you, potentially indicating the existence of a warrant.

Checking with local law enforcement agencies, and court records, or consulting with a criminal defense attorney like Michael A. Arbeit can help you determine if a warrant has been issued in your name.

Available Methods to Check for Warrants:

If you believe there can be a warrant, there are a few methods to determine if there is one. You may use the DCJS (Division of Criminal Justice Services) website to look for warrants in New York by entering your name. You should also contact a New York criminal defense attorney if you discover an outstanding warrant linked with your name. Another option is, going to your neighborhood police station or sheriff’s office to find out whether there are any outstanding warrants. Here are some common approaches explained:

  1. Online Resources: Utilize official websites and databases provided by law enforcement agencies or the court system. For example, the New York State Unified Court System offers an online search tool that allows individuals to check for active warrants within the state. These databases may require you to input personal information, such as your name, date of birth, or case number, to conduct a search.
  2. Court Inquiries: Contact local courts directly to inquire about the existence of any outstanding warrants in your name. You can reach out to the clerk’s office of the court where you believe the warrant might have been issued or contact the appropriate law enforcement agency associated with the case. Provide them with your identifying information and request a warrant search.
  3. Working with an Attorney: Engage a criminal defense attorney who can conduct a thorough search on your behalf. Attorneys have access to additional resources and can navigate the legal system to obtain accurate information about your warrant status. They can perform comprehensive searches, communicate with law enforcement or court personnel, and provide you with guidance and advice based on their findings.

When utilizing any of these methods, it is important to provide accurate and up-to-date personal information to ensure an effective warrant search. Remember that checking for warrants is a serious matter, and it is advisable to consult with an attorney who can guide you through the process and protect your rights.

Responding to the Discovery of a Warrant

When faced with the discovery of a warrant issued in your name, it is essential to respond promptly and strategically. Taking the right steps can help protect your rights and navigate the legal process effectively. The key elements in responding to the discovery of a warrant involve consulting with an attorney, turning yourself in, and resolving the warrant. By seeking legal counsel, surrendering yourself voluntarily, and working towards a resolution, you can address the warrant in a responsible and informed manner. Here’s a breakdown of each step:

Step 1: Consultation with an Attorney

As soon as you become aware of it, it is crucial to seek legal counsel. Contact a criminal defense attorney who can provide you with expert guidance and representation. During the consultation, your attorney will review the details of the warrant, assess the charges or allegations against you, and explain the potential consequences. They will help you understand your rights and develop an appropriate defense strategy.

Animated image of police officers in front of a house

Step 2: Turning Yourself In

It is generally advisable to voluntarily surrender to the authorities rather than waiting for them to apprehend you. Coordinate with your attorney to determine the best approach for turning yourself in. They can assist in arranging a suitable time and location for surrender, which can help demonstrate your willingness to cooperate and may lead to more favorable treatment in the legal process. Your attorney will accompany you during the surrender process, ensuring your rights are protected.

Step 3: Resolving the Warrant

Once you have turned yourself in, your attorney will work on resolving the warrant. This process involves addressing the underlying legal issues and working towards a resolution. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may negotiate with the prosecution, prepare a defense strategy, explore possible plea bargains, or seek to have the warrant withdrawn or quashed. Their goal is to help you navigate the legal process effectively and achieve the best possible outcome.

Throughout these steps, it is crucial to follow the advice and guidance of your attorney. They will advocate for your rights, communicate with the relevant legal authorities on your behalf, and ensure that you are well-prepared for any court proceedings or negotiations. Responding to a warrant with the assistance of an experienced attorney can significantly help protect your interests and navigate the complexities of the legal system.

How Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Help You with a Warrant

In this critical situation, it is imperative to have a skilled lawyer by your side who can guide you through the complexities of responding to a warrant. Attorney Michael A. Arbeit possesses the knowledge, experience, and dedication to provide you with the strong legal representation you need. He will work tirelessly to protect your rights and help you achieve the best possible outcome. Don’t face a warrant alone – take action today and schedule a consultation with Attorney Michael A. Arbeit to ensure you have a strong defense strategy in place. Your future and freedom are too important to leave to chance.

Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. helps people with arrest warrants throughout Nassau County, Suffolk County, and New York City, including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, and The Bronx.

Note: This page was written with the assistance of artificial intelligence software, but was reviewed for accuracy and approved by attorney Michael A. Arbeit, Esq.

About the Author
Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. is devoted to all Criminal Defense and  Traffic related matters.  Michael practices primarily in the Criminal and County (Supreme) Courts in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County, Kings County, New York County and the Bronx County.  Michael is also licensed to practice law in the Federal Courts of the Eastern District of New York (EDNY) and the Southern District of New York (SDNY).