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Virginia arrest warrants need timely action says Fairfax lawyer

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Virginia arrest warrants usually will not simply remain unserved, says Fairfax criminal lawyer

Virginia arrest warrants need to be acted on timely and with a solid approach, lest you get arrested at the worst moment, and worse when the next available bond hearing date is not for several days. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that the arrest and pretrial release process can stand the Constitutional presumption of innocence on its head, with jails having too many presumed-innocent defendants waiting incarcerated for their trial and felony preliminary hearing dates, sometimes taking over an hour or two to see the magistrate (who is the first judicial official to decide your pretrial release and bond / bail conditions), and holding Virginia DUI and public intoxication arrestees until their blood alcohol level lowers (which I do not consider a legitimate condition for holding the defendant even if the authorities claim that the defendant is otherwise being released in a publicly intoxicated status, which is re-arrestable). For those who oversimplify the criminal justice system as “You do the crime, you do the time,” I answer: That does not answer the circumstances before guilt is proven, not only with pretrial detention, but also with the expense of hiring a Virginia criminal defense lawyer and with those who lose their jobs and risk adverse security clearance and immigration status transitions even before their trial date.

How do I know if I have a pending Virginia arrest warrant?

In Virginia, a judicial magistrate or judge can direct that a criminal suspect be arrested (after a finding of probable cause to do so) with a bench arrest warrant, a warrant of arrest, and a capias order. On top of that, when police detain a criminal suspect and want to have the suspect prosecuted, they can proceed by issuing a criminal summons on the defendant or by bringing the suspect before a court magistrate and requesting the issuance of a warrant of arrest. Consequently, you know on the spot if you have a Virginia warrant of arrest if it is issued after the police officer detains you. To know otherwise if you have an open Virginia arrest warrant, you usually will not find that information through the Virginia courts’ online docketing system (and the Fairfax Circuit Court and some other Virginia circuit courts do not have online criminal case dockets) unless your case is already active in court and if a judge has ordered your arrest for an alleged probation violation / VASAP noncompliance charge, or for an alleged failure to appear in court. I can contact the arrest warrant / bench warrant unit of the relevant law enforcement agency to ask that information, which will be provided to me but not always with much detail about what is the alleged crime(s). For Fairfax criminal open arrest warrants, my usual initial point of contact with the county police for such information is FCPDWarrant2@fairfaxcounty.gov .

How do I proactively handle an open warrant for my arrest?

Once you know you have an unserved Virginia arrest warrant, it is time for you to obtain the assistance of a qualified lawyer. If you proactively turn yourself in on an open arrest warrant, that strengthens your argument for the first prong of a pretrial release determination under Virginia Code § 19.2-120, which is risk of flight (with the second prong being risk by the defendant of harm to himself or herself or to others). If you do not turn yourself in on your open warrant, you can expect eventually to be arrested on the warrant anyway, for instance during any police traffic stop of you, or by law enforcement’s proactively seeking you to serve the warrant. Beware skipping town or otherwise hiding to avoid an arrest warrant, as that provides the prosecution with an argument that you are indeed a risk of flight, and also the jury at a criminal trial is permitted to consider flight as evidence of consciousness of guilt. Ideally, you will coordinate your turn-in on an arrest warrant with your lawyer, where your lawyer can talk with the magistrate who considers your pretrial release conditions. If the magistrate denies you release, your lawyer can then seek release at your arraignment, which the judge may or may not agree to do rather than having a formal bond hearing set. Your lawyer needs to know any procedural, deadline and other peculiarities about obtaining a bond hearing in Virginia District Court (and for obtaining an appealed de novo bond hearing in Circuit Court if bond is denied in District Court), including in Fairfax, where your lawyer needs Court Services on the courthouse second floor to timely receive a copy of the bond hearing request and also to fill out the adjacent clipboard for the relevant bond hearing date. For your bond hearing to have teeth in it, your lawyer will want to have ready for that hearing all needed witnesses and all relevant documentation for such matters as proving your employment.

How long will I wait in jail if arrested on an intestate fugitive warrant?

Among the least desirable of Virginia arrest warrants is a fugitive warrant, whereby the criminal defendant is arrested on an out-of-state arrest warrant. A fugitive warrant can translate into waiting in jail for at least days until the authorities in the seeking state come for the defendant, unless the judicial authorities in the arresting state authorize pretrial release, which ordinarily would be accompanied with providing proof of satisfying the arrest warrant of the wanting state. You want to talk with your lawyer about whether to challenge being extradited to the seeking state, where usually the only reason to challenge extradition is an argument that you are not the right person being sought (versus arguing that you are not guilty).

Your arrest is but the beginning of your prosecution. Obtain a qualified lawyer to fight like hell for you at all stages of your defense.

Your Virginia arrest is critical to address in the right way, but cannot be a distraction from the rest of your essential defense. Obtain a qualified criminal defense lawyer to fight fully and effectively for you, and as a team with you. Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz has successfully defended hundreds of people accused of Virginia DUI, misdemeanor and felony offenses, and will be delighted to defend you. Call 703-383-1100 for you free initial in-person consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending case.