“I think a warrant has been issued for my arrest!”.
Thinking that a warrant is outstanding for your arrest and knowing that the police might bang on your door at any moment is trying and stressful. But take a deep breath, we have an action plan written by a criminal attorney who regularly handles arrests warrants in Tampa Bay to help you through this.
Index for Quick Jump
The Florida Criminal Information Center: The State of Florida has a Public Access Warrant Search Online that is provided as a courtesy by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Simply go to the State-run website, enter the relevant data, and you can see if an active warrant has been reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
County Specific Warrant Searches
Another way to determine if an active warrant for arrest exists is to go to the County website where you think the warrant might exist. This is especially helpful if you think the warrant is recent and may not have been reported to the Florida State Level wide agency.
Polk County Warrant Search
Polk County has a Polk County Warrant Search available at its jail website.
Hillsborough County Warrant Search
Likewise, Hillsborough County has a simply warrant search tool to look up arrest warrants in Tampa, South Tampa, Lutz, Brandon, Plant City, and the rest of the County.
Pasco Warrant Search
Pasco County has one warrant search for the entire county, covering both the East and Western portions of the County.
Pinellas County Warrant Search:
Pinellas County’s Warrant search tool is not currently active. You can however contact the Warrant desk at the Sherriff’s Office at 727-582-6192
Contact a Bail Bond Agency:
Another way to quickly check to see if a warrant is active for arrest is to contact a local Bail Bond Agency.
Bail bond agencies have the tools available to quickly look you or a family member up and let you know if a warrant exists. They will also let you know if you have a self-arrest option available where you can “walk through” on your warrant and get released quickly with the help of the bondsperson. Alternatively, if you must contact a Tampa Bay criminal attorney as an only resort, the bail bond agency will let you know that too.
Different types of warrants are treated differenly by a Judge.
Arrest Warrant for Probable Cause
An arrest warrant for probablye cause is issued when a police office files a sworn affidavit that he or she has probable cause that criminal activity has taken place. This sworn affidavit is then taken to a Judge to review.
If the Judge agrees that the sworn affidavit, on its face, is enough for a warrant, then the Judge signs the warrant and returns to the police officer for execution.
Remember: Probable Cause does not mean the State Attorney will be able to prove its case against you. Probable cause is a much lower legal standard than the proof beyond reasonable doubt required to support a conviction. It is enough however to get the ball rolling and lead to an arrest.
Bench Warrant for Failure to Appear
If a misdemeanor charge has been filed against you the Judge will summons you to appear to Court to answer to the charge.
But if you are summoned to appear and then don’t show up, the Judge will likely issue a bench warrant for you.
Direct File Warrant by State Attorney
Sometimes the police officer gathers evidence for a criminal charge but is not sure whether or not to proceed with asking for an Arrest Warrant. The police office may instead defer to the State Attorney, or prosecutor, in making a decision.
If the State Attorney reviews the information provided by the police and decides that there is probably cause for a Felony or Domestic Violence crime, then the State Attorney will direct file an Information charging the case. The State Attorney can also decide to put a Warrant out for your arrest as part of the Direct File.
Arrest Warrant for Probation Violation
If you are on probation and violate some of the terms and conditions, your probation officer can file an Affidavit of Violation of Probation. Included in this affidavit is often a warrant for your arrest.
After determining that a warrant exists and the specific details of the warrant, you’ll want to begin the process of removing the warrant. o do so:
See if there is a bond amount attached to the warrant: If there is a bond amount attached to the warrant, then ythen you could proceed to turn yourself in to the police, have the cops execute the warrant, and then bond out.
Determine if should surrender in jail or attend with attorney: Before turning yourselff in you’ll want to line up a criminal defense lawyer and a bondsman so that your time in custody is short and you exercise your 5th amendment right to remain silen.
Determine if you should file a “Motion to Surrender”: Depending on the nature of the warrant, your criminal lawyer may advise filing a Motion to Surrender at the Courthouse. This gives your attorney an opportunity to potentially work out the terms of your release and/or resolve your case in advance of turning yourself in. This can save you from getting stuck in jail for days while waiting for a court date.
Determine if you should file a Motion to Withdraw Capias: Alternatively, your attorney may be able to ask the Court to withdraw the warrant in its entirety. This is true if the Judge had issued a bench warrant for failure to appear but you can show the Court the failure to appear was not intentional.
Schedule an emergency Bond Reduction Motion: If the warrant has already been executed (your arrested) and there is no bond or the bond is too high for your release, you attorney can file and schedule an emergency hearing asking the Judge to reduce the bond to something more manageable. In some cases, your criminal lawyer can ask the Judge to release you on your own recognizance, effectively allowing you out of custody without having to post a bond.
Schedule a Change of Plea: In some cases your attorney may simply schedule change of plea hearing to get you into Court and get you out of jail. Your attorney will examine your case, including the discovery and police reports, and contact the State Attorney in advance to try to resolve your case for an agreed upon deal that gets you out of jail.