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Open Arrest Warrants in Virginia - Ignore Them at Your Risk

Open arrest warrants call for a Virginia criminal defendant's full attention

Open arrest warrants (OAW) in Virginia can be a pain in the neck. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that if you ignore them, they are likely to catch up with you. If you turn yourself in on them, you need to be prepared for what happens if the judicial magistrate does not enable you to be released. If you are arrested in a Virginia county different from the county where you are being prosecuted, you can end up waiting at least a day to be transported to the county jail where you are being prosecuted (unless released first through a video appearance with the magistrate handling your case in the prosecuting count). Commonwealth of Virginia v. Carter, (2016) is a Fairfax County Circuit Court letter of opinion to support receiving jail credit for a conviction in Virginia County B after being held in Virginia Count jail A for the sole purpose of the pending case in County B). If you are arrested in another state on an open warrant, you can end up being incarcerated out of state while awaiting transport to Virginia.

Should I ask the police whether I have an open arrest warrant or criminal summons against me in Virginia?

Does asking the police if you have an open arrest warrant or criminal summons in Virginia increase the risk of being charged criminally after all? That would seem to be a possibility because once you tell the police the name of the person whose possible arrest warrant you are asking about, your inquiry may circulate among employees and law enforcement officers (LEOs) at that department. From a practical standpoint, though, it seems that some LEO agencies are less likely to criminally charge and pursue you than if no inquiry had been made. At the very least, it is ideal to have a qualified lawyer make any such inquiry for you rather than doing so yourself or doing so through a friend or family member, because a qualified lawyer can do so discretely and perhaps with the inquiry raising less attention.

How do I check whether I have an open warrant in Fairfax County and beyond?

To find out if you have an OAW or criminal summons in Virginia, contact the open warrant desk of the relevant law enforcement agency. In Fairfax, the best information source seems to be by email to FCPDWarrant2@fairfaxcounty.gov. My standard inquiry language to that Fairfax County police email address is: "To the Fairfax County police open warrant desk: Please tell me whether an open arrest warrant(s) exists against my client _________, DOB 8/3/68. If so, how many felony and misdemeanor counts are there? What is the date the warrants were issued? Thank you. Jon Katz." The Fairfax County police open warrants desk usually responds to such emails within one to two business days. If you receive no response after two business days from the Fairfax police open warrant desk, it may be a good idea to forward the police your original information request and to say you are renewing your request.

Will the Virginia police tell me what crimes I am accused of on my OAW?

Ordinarily, police open arrest warrant desks only tell me the number of respective felony and misdemeanor counts that are pending against my client. That at least tells me whether we are in the misdemeanor zone (which can generally increase the chance of obtaining favorable pretrial release conditions), the felony zone, or both. I like to know what crimes are charged -- let alone more details than that -- both for being one step further in preparing my Virginia criminal defense client's defense and also for targeting my efforts to help my client obtain favorable pretrial release conditions.

Can I get my OAW converted to a summons before being served my Virginia criminal charging document?

Many Virginia criminal defendants with open arrest warrants ask me if it is possible to convert their arrest warrant to a summons, in order to simply have to appear in court, and not to have to appear before a magistrate to have pretrial release conditions set. I can always approach the prosecutor's office in the relevant county to seek such an agreement. However, if no prosecutor agrees, it will be an uphill battle to convince a judge to grant such a request unopposed. Then again, if the judge says no, the rest of the defense still continues, and comprehensive criminal defense is always essential.

What should my Virginia criminal defense lawyer say to the magistrate to advocate for my speedy release after turning myself in on an OAW?

If you turn yourself in on an open arrest warrant with the assistance of a Virginia criminal defense lawyer, your attorney will want to obtain information from you that will help show the court magistrate that you are neither a flight risk nor a risk of harm to yourself nor others. Virginia Code § 19.2-120 Your lawyer will want to know such information of how strong your ties are to the community, whom you live with. where you work and what you do for your job, and how long you have lived in the area. To show you are not a risk of harm to yourself nor others, your lawyer will want to know such information as your history of getting alone well with people, your criminal prosecution and conviction background, any drug or alcohol issues, and your efforts to deal with them.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz provides you a tailor-made defense where he listens closely to your concerns and goals about your case, works together with you in developing a defense action plan, updates strategy with you as your case develops and as new insights are gained about your defense, and talks matters through with you to deal with your ideas, concerns, hard work, and goal to obtain the best possible defense in your case. See for yourself the critical positive difference that criminal defense lawyer Jon Katz can make for your fight against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 for your free in-person confidential consultation about your court-pending prosecution.