A warrant for your arrest means the courts have authorized law enforcement officers to arrest you upon sight, based on probable cause to suspect your involvement with a crime. The courts typically base arrest warrants on police officers’ sworn statements or affidavits. Arrest warrants can occur after even minor infractions, such as traffic violations. Former Atlanta Falcons player Roddy White recently learned this lesson upon his arrest in Gwinnett County. Despite Roddy’s brief stint behind bars, it is possible to take care of an arrest warrant without having to go to jail.
Is the Warrant Valid?
First, find out if the police actually have a valid arrest warrant against you. Working with a criminal defense attorney can help you obtain this information. You can also do so by contacting your county’s community court. If you’re in Fulton County, you can find their website here.
A valid warrant contains information such as an explanation of probable cause, police affidavits, a specific description of the suspect, and an issuance from a judge or jury. Affidavits explain the grounds on which the police are basing their assumptions – usually their own observations or information from witnesses. If the alleged arrest warrant does not contain this information, it may not be valid or hold up in court.
The arrest will only be lawful if the police obey the stipulations of the warrant. Most state that the arrest may only occur between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m, for example. Police do not always need a warrant for your arrest. Without one, police simply need probable cause to make the arrest. Witnessing a crime or having another probable cause could be enough to lawfully detain you. Otherwise, police need a court-issued arrest warrant. Making an arrest without probable cause or a warrant violates a person’s Fourth Amendment rights. These rights protect Americans from unlawful search and seizure.
An arrest warrant is not the same as a search warrant. The officer needs both types of warrants to conduct a search of property during arrest. While the police have the right to search your person upon arrest, an officer might have also violated your Fourth Amendment right if he or she searched your home or vehicle. Searching your property that is not in plain view is against the law unless you give your consent or the officer has a specific warrant to do so. Any violation of your rights could lead to the courts dismissing the charges against you.
Avoiding Jail With an Arrest Warrant
It is possible in many situations to contact the court and make an arrangement other than going to jail if the city has a warrant out for your arrest. Contact your county court immediately after learning of the warrant out for your arrest. If you suspect a warrant, check your public records or contact an attorney. Then, call the courts and try to remedy the situation. If you owe money on a ticket, for example, you may be able to make payment arrangements – or at least request deferred disposition.
Deferred disposition means you are entering a plea of guilty or no contest. This makes you eligible for probation in most cases and prevents the offense from entering your permanent record. Probation is the alternative to jail for most people with arrest warrants. If the courts grant your plea for probation, you will spend the appointed number of days or years obeying the terms of your sentence. You can return to your home and community instead of going to jail, but you must follow the rules of the term.
On probation, you may have to contend with house arrest, community service hours, supervision from a probation officer, attending educational courses, working, and/or paying restitution. The specific terms will depend on the severity of your crime, as well as factors such as your criminal history. Failing to meet the terms of your probation could result in a jail sentence instead. It is crucial to understand and obey the rules during your probation period if you wish to avoid going to jail.
Contact an Atlanta Attorney
If you have questions regarding an active arrest warrant or probation violation, contact our office to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with one of our attorneys. Our team will answer any questions you may have regarding your case and can guide you towards your best legal options. Call (404) 471-3999 to schedule yours or complete a contact form online and someone from our team will be in contact with you.