It’s surprising to see how many calls I receive from all over the country from good people who visit Florida only to find after they’ve left that they now face criminal charges from their stay in Florida. What actions should someone immediately take to safeguard his reputation, his job and his family once he knows that Florida has issued a warrant for his arrest?
Because an arrest warrant, even one that is many years old, gives any and every officer the right to make an arrest, it’s important to take immediate action to have the warrant discharged. For example, someone who is charged with a crime in Clearwater, Florida could find himself arrested while stopped for speeding in another state. If the underlying charge from the arrest warrant is a felony then you may have to wait weeks in jail in the state where you were apprehended while Florida decides whether or not to spend the money to extradite you. Therefore, it’s much smarter and more convenient to choose the soonest opportunity to address the underlying warrant on your own time and at your own choosing.
Here are five ways to make certain that a Florida warrant won’t ruin your life.
1. Check the county clerk’s office web page and the Sheriff’s web page in the county where you believe a warrant may exist. In Pinellas County each of these web pages will describe the underlying crime for which the warrant was issued as well as personal information of the wanted person.
2. Check the FDLE web page for warrant information. FDLE is Florida’s statewide crime fighters with jurisdiction covering all of Florida. Though county warrant information tends to be fresher eventually every warrant issued in Florida will make it to the FDLE web page.
3. Find the following facts: which police agency issued the warrant, the age of the warrant, how your name is listed in the warrant and the warrant number.
4. Obtain the actual warrant. This may be difficult as older warrants in Pinellas County and all over Florida will be on microfilm with the original paper copy destroyed. To obtain the warrant contact the clerk’s office, pay the appropriate fee and have it mailed or faxed to you.
5. Use the facts to ascertain whether you have any valid defenses. For example, if an arrest warrant from Florida suggests that you wrote a worthless check to a store two months after you left the state of Florida, then you may have a valid defense that someone else wrote the check in your name. Another example of likely possible defense gleaned from an arrest warrant would be finding that the personal information, such as age, date of birth or race in the warrant does not match your personal information.
Clearly, you’re going to need to hire a Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to help you with the most challenging aspect of resolving a pending Florida warrant, which is finding a way to turn yourself in on the warrant without spending weeks in jail waiting for your case to be called by a judge. It’s possible to walk thru the jail system with the bond amount ready or to turn yourself into the judge at a prearranged bond hearing or in very rare cases even persuade the prosecutors to withdraw the arrest warrant.