Interviewer: Once you ask an attorney to check to see if you have a warrant, is the attorney obligated to tell you to turn yourself in or to help you turn yourself in or?
Freddy: As an attorney, you cannot tell someone to break the law. So, you can’t tell them, “There’s a warrant for your arrest. I want you to run.” You cannot do that. That is a violation of ethical standards. You just cannot do that.
What you can tell the person is that they have a warrant for their arrest, what the charge is that they have and you can tell the person that if they want to get processed through, that you, as the attorney, can bring them through or that they need to turn themselves in, but what the person does with the information, of course, is up to them.
Interviewer:And do the police make a record that an attorney called in and now you’ve been advised that there’s a warrant, so now you have more of a problem if you don’t show up and turn yourself in?
Freddy: No. Because they know that they’re looking for that particular person and they’re just waiting for that person to show up. So, the attorney is under no obligation to go turn that person in. The person is under no obligation to come in, but, if they don’t, of course, the consequences are that they will not only have a warrant for their arrest, but if they don’t show up at all, the court case continues and completes. They’ll have a bench warrant for their arrest. So, there’s always consequences, but the best thing for them to do is just call an attorney and have them arrange to be processed through and be brought in with the attorney.
A Bench Warrant
Interviewer: What’s a bench warrant versus a regular warrant?
Freddy: Well, regular warrant says, “We have a warrant for your arrest.” Let’s say this person’s name is John Smith. John Smith has committed a crime. We now have a warrant for John Smith’s arrest and that warrant for John Smith’s arrest allows us to go pick him up, put him in jail and process him for a crime. He still is innocent until proven guilty and still has to come back at a later time. That’s a regular warrant.
A bench warrant, says that we had a court case for John Smith and a warrant for John Smith. He did not show up. We have a court case now for John Smith. He did not show up for court, therefore, he is found guilty, and, now, there’s a bench warrant, meaning that the judge, from the bench, will issue an order saying that if this person was found, or if they are picked up, they are to be incarcerated until such and such a time. This case comes to court. Generally, in that scenario, once they pick you up, after the bench warrant’s been issued, you’re incarcerated until the time for the case. You are not allowed or given a bail.
Can Your Attorney Help Negotiate Your Bail?
Interviewer: Are you able to negotiate bail for people that have bench warrants that didn’t know they had a warrant or is it kind of too bad?
Freddy: Absolutely.The one good thing that helps, being an attorney, that you can call the prosecutor and say, “I now represent John Smith. John Smith had a warrant for their arrest last year. They did not know either that they had a warrant or they did not come to court for a variety of different reasons.” We want to be able to, now, bring that case to court. They’re picked up. They are in the court system. Thus, quickly bring the case to court, get a resolution that may include time served or probation or the person coming out of jail or a bail to be negotiated or given above a bench warrant, because now the person is represented and they feel confident that the person’s coming back to court.
Interviewer: So, once a person’s released on bail or on their own recognizance, now their first court date, it’s called an arraignment, right?
Your Arraignment Must Be Scheduled as Expeditiously as Possible
Freddy: Right. And that goes to those steps. You have the arrest. They’re arrested first on a warrant or bench warrant. Then they’re taken to jail where they’re processed. Then the next step is an arraignment. And, in the arraignment, this is usually, or more often, the first appearance in court, on a criminal case. According to the law, an arraignment must be done as quickly as possible.
There is a U.S. Supreme Court case, called Mallory versus U.S., which says that arraignments must be held as quickly as possible after an arrest for the protection of criminal defendants. This ruling specifies this time constraint, so when people are charged with a crime, at that time, police and prosecutors must have gathered enough evidence to decide that you should have been charged for a crime.
Interviewer: At the arraignment, you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Is that right?
Freddy: That’s correct.
Pleading Guilty At Your Arraignment
Interviewer: So, if you plead guilty at an arraignment, what happens then?
Freddy: At that particular time, then they can schedule a time for you to come back to court later, if you’re already incarcerated or the judge can be able to say, “Do you understand that you pleading guilty because you are guilty and these are several protections that you have, so that you have a right to a jury trial, things like that.”
Then, you can be sentenced on the spot. It’s been my experience that almost no one pleads guilty at an arraignment because, to plead guilty at the arraignment, where you’re just issuing the charge, just says that you’re going to be sitting in a jail cell until they get to that case later.
Interviewer: Yes, that certainly makes sense.
What Is An Arraignment?
Freddy: But the arraignment essentially gives you written charges of the written accusation against you.
Interviewer: So, they read you the charges and then they ask you how you plead.
Freddy: Well, they read the charge. It’s a written accusation charged against you. They read the charges, ask you how you plead and you can plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. The judge, at that time, will decide if you can have bail or there will be bail in that case and then you’re set up for another court hearing, after that time, where you can bring an attorney with you or you can plead guilty again at that time.
By Freddy Woods