An outstanding warrant can impact your life in unexpected ways, especially if you never know of its existence. Fortunately, there are ways to find out beforehand if a warrant has been issued against you. In this blog, you’ll learn about the resources available to locate this information and how an Austin criminal defense attorney can help you take appropriate action.
What Is an Arrest Warrant and Why Conduct a Search?
An arrest warrant is a legal document issued by a Texas judge or magistrate authorizing law enforcement to arrest and detain a specific person. This warrant is typically issued when there is probable cause to believe that the individual has committed a crime. According to Title 1 Chapter 15 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, it must contain the following information:
- The person’s name. If this detail is not known, a ‘reasonably definite’ description must be provided.
- Information about the alleged crime.
- A judge’s signature and the location of their office.
It’s natural to assume that if you have a warrant against you, you’ll know about it. However, this is not always the case for several reasons. For example:
- If the warrant was issued for a minor infraction or a misunderstanding, you might not be aware of the underlying incident. A missed court date or an unpaid fine can result in a warrant without your knowledge, especially if any notifications were sent to an old address or lost in the mail.
- In cases of mistaken identity or clerical errors, a warrant could be erroneously issued in your name. This can happen if someone provides false information to the authorities or there’s a mix-up in names, dates of birth, or other identifying information.
- If you’ve moved out of state or changed your contact details without updating the relevant authorities, any attempt to notify you about a warrant might not reach you.
In any case, it’s important to periodically check if there are any warrants against you, especially if you have had past encounters with the law, missed court dates, or have outstanding fines or tickets. Being aware allows you to take proactive steps, such as consulting with a lawyer, and can help prevent the embarrassment of being arrested unexpectedly at home or work.
Consequences of Warrant Issuance
When a warrant is issued against you, it can bring on a wide range of immediate and long-term consequences. Although everyone’s case is different, common examples include:
- Legal Proceedings: Warrant issuance marks the beginning of formal legal proceedings. It means you will need to appear in court to face charges and defend yourself against the accusations.
- Public Accusation: A warrant can become a matter of public record, which means your name could be associated with a criminal offense. This public association can have personal and professional repercussions, such as strained family relationships or difficulties at work.
- Bail Requirement: You may need to post bail to secure your release while awaiting trial. Bail amounts can vary a lot depending on the charges and your criminal history, with higher totals potentially causing financial strain.
- Legal Costs: Dealing with a warrant can involve legal expenses, such as hiring an Austin criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. If there are any delays in responding to the warrant, you may have to pay more to deal with the resulting complications.
- Court Sanctions: Depending on the offense, a conviction can lead to fines, jail time, or both. Failure to respond to a warrant may result in additional court sanctions, such as contempt charges. This can compound your legal difficulties.
- Criminal Record Entry: If the warrant leads to a conviction, you will have a criminal record, which can have long-lasting effects on various aspects of your life. Common issues include inability to access public benefits, get a driver’s license, or travel outside the United States.
- Impact on Employment: The existence of a warrant can affect your current and future job prospects. Many employers conduct background checks that reveal warrants and convictions, which could influence hiring decisions or lead to job loss.
In short, the issuance of a warrant can initiate a series of legal and personal problems. It’s important to understand these potential consequences and take appropriate steps to address the situation.
How to Conduct a Warrant Search in Austin
If you need to conduct an Austin warrant search, you can do so by checking with the appropriate jurisdiction. Warrants issued by the City of Austin, the Austin Police Department (APD), or the Austin Municipal Court are categorized as APD warrants. You can find these by visiting the official APD warrant search page.
For warrants issued within Travis County but outside of the APD’s jurisdiction, you can search the Travis County warrant database. For those issued by other jurisdictions, the best approach is to contact their respective offices directly. If you’re not sure which location may have issued the warrant, the Texas Department of Public Safety website is a convenient resource for searching warrants issued by county, state, or federal courts.
If you’re concerned about a blue warrant (a specific type of warrant issued for parole violators), your parole officer is the first point of contact for any questions. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), which oversees parole in Texas, can also provide details about blue warrants. In addition, local police or sheriff’s departments can inform you if there is an active blue warrant in your name, as they have access to this information.
It’s important to note that if a warrant has mistakes on it, such as a misspelled name or wrong date of birth, it might not appear when you do a standard search. However, this doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually result in your arrest.
Why Is It Important to Know About an Existing Warrant?
An arrest warrant can have a negative impact on your life whether you’re aware of it or not. The longer you go without addressing it, the worse the potential consequences can be. Knowing about the existence of a warrant, on the other hand, allows you to respond proactively and mitigate the outcome.
Consequences of Ignoring an Arrest Warrant
Ignoring an arrest warrant can lead to serious consequences. They include:
- Arrest and Detention: If you have an outstanding warrant, you can be arrested at any time. This means you could be detained during a routine traffic stop or even at your home or workplace, leading to personal and professional disruptions.
- Driver’s License Suspension: An outstanding warrant can result in the suspension of your driver’s license. This suspension can limit your ability to commute, travel, or fulfill other responsibilities that require driving.
- Impact on Credit History: Unresolved legal issues, like outstanding warrants, can adversely affect your credit history. This can hinder your ability to secure loans, mortgages, and other financial services.
- Employment Issues: Many employers perform background checks, and an outstanding warrant can be a significant mark against you. It can lead to difficulties in obtaining new employment, or even result in the loss of your current job, especially if a clean legal record is a condition of your employment.
Warrant Appeals Process
While you can’t directly appeal an arrest warrant itself, you do have options to address and potentially challenge it. Since these warrants are issued based on probable cause, dealing with one requires you to present your case during the subsequent proceedings.
Here’s what you can do:
- Hire an Attorney: Consult an Austin criminal defense lawyer as soon as you know about the warrant. They can help you figure out the best option for dealing with your situation and provide the necessary legal guidance during the disposition of your case.
- Surrender and Address the Charges: One common approach is to arrange a voluntary surrender through your attorney. In some cases, you can get a pre-approved bond. Also known as a jail ‘walk-through,’ this step helps you get out of custody more quickly.
- File a Motion to Quash: If there are legal grounds, such as lack of probable cause or improper procedure, your attorney might file a motion to quash the warrant. This is a formal request asking the court to declare the warrant invalid.
- Bail and Bond Hearings: After surrendering, your attorney can represent you in bail or bond hearings to argue for your release pending the resolution of the case. This is also an opportunity to address any issues related to the warrant and the charges.
- Contest the Charges in Court: Ultimately, if the case goes to court, you have the opportunity to contest the charges against you. This is where you can challenge the evidence that led to the issuance of the arrest warrant.
It’s important to act promptly and seek legal advice if you find out there is an arrest warrant in your name. Doing so can help mitigate potential negative consequences and increase your chances of a positive outcome.
Legal Assistance and Consultations for an Austin Warrant Search
If you discover an outstanding warrant against you, hiring a lawyer is strongly recommended. At Michael & Associates, we can help you understand the specifics of the warrant, including the charges and their implications. We will advise you on the best course of action, whether it’s challenging the warrant, negotiating terms for surrender, or preparing for court proceedings.
We can also make things go more smoothly if you decide to voluntarily surrender. This may mean working on getting a pre-approved bond, which can expedite your release from custody after the surrender. This reduces the time you spend in detention and makes the entire process less stressful.
Furthermore, having legal representation ensures that your rights are protected at all times. We will advocate on your behalf, negotiate with prosecutors, and prepare a defense strategy if your case goes to trial. Our involvement can also demonstrate to the court that you are taking the matter seriously and dealing with it responsibly, which could positively impact the outcome of your case.
FAQs About Austin Warrant Search
How Do I Find Out If There’s an Arrest Warrant for Me in Austin?
If you’re concerned that you may have an outstanding warrant, you can start by checking the Austin Police Department’s website, which provides a searchable database of active warrants. You can also check the website for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, as their records include warrants issued in the Austin area.
If you’re unsure about how to carry out an Austin warrant search or if you discover a warrant for your arrest, consult with an Austin criminal defense attorney. They can review your situation with you and recommend the best way of dealing with the warrant.
Can I Look Up Currently Active Warrants in Texas?
Yes, you can look up currently active warrants in Texas. Many counties and cities across the state have online databases that you can search for active warrants. These resources are typically accessible through the websites of local law enforcement agencies, such as county sheriff’s offices or city police departments.
For a broader warrant search, you can also use the Texas Department of Public Safety’s online resources. They offer a searchable database for outstanding warrants across the state. However, keep in mind that not all warrants may be listed online, especially if they were recently issued.
If you’re unable to find the information you need online, you can contact the relevant law enforcement agency directly. They can provide information over the phone or in person. It’s important to handle this information carefully: if you do find a warrant in your name, consider speaking to a lawyer on how to proceed.
Do Warrants Expire in the State of Texas?
As a general rule, arrest warrants do not expire in Texas. Once issued, a warrant remains active until the individual named in the document is arrested or appears in court. This means that an outstanding warrant can lead to an arrest at any time, even years after it was initially issued.
Because they don’t simply go away or expire, any arrest warrant should be addressed as soon as possible. Ignoring it does not resolve the issue; in fact, doing so can lead to more complications over time. If you find out there is a warrant in your name, you should consult with an attorney to understand your options and take appropriate steps to resolve the situation.
Is It Possible to Clear a Warrant by Making a Payment in Texas?
In Texas, whether you can clear a warrant by making a payment largely depends on the nature of the alleged offense. For certain types, like those issued for unpaid fines or minor violations, paying the outstanding amount can sometimes resolve the warrant.
For more serious offenses, however, making a payment won’t usually clear an arrest warrant. These types of warrants normally require a court appearance. For instance, if a warrant is issued for a criminal charge, you will likely need to go before a judge to resolve the matter, especially if jail time may be involved.
If you’re unsure whether making a payment will clear your warrant in Texas, seek legal advice from an Austin criminal defense lawyer. A lawyer can review your case and explain whether payment will resolve your warrant or if other steps need to be taken.
What’s the Usual Jail Time for a Warrant in Texas?
There is no typical sentence for a warrant in Texas. This is because jail terms depend on things like the nature of the offense, the specific charges, and the defendant’s criminal history. In short, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
For minor offenses, such as unpaid traffic tickets, the jail time might be brief or even avoidable if you pay the fines promptly. With more serious offenses, such as domestic violence or repeat DWI, the time spent in custody could be longer, especially if the court sets a high bail amount or if there are multiple or complex charges involved.
It’s important to remember that an arrest warrant doesn’t automatically mean jail time. Depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible to bond out until the court hears your case. The best course of action for anyone with an outstanding warrant is to seek legal advice. At Michael & Associates, we can help you identify the best option for dealing with your situation.
Ben has vast experience in defending criminal cases ranging from DWIs to assault, drug possession, and many more. He has countless criminal charges dismissed and pled down. Among many other awards, one of the Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys in Texas and winner of Top 40 under 40.