Through my various Attorney Sam Take blogs, I have tried to inform you of the realities of the criminal justice system. For the most part, I have concentrated on the participants, policies and statute involved. You should know, however, that what those participants do, and how criminal statutes are enforced, have changed over recent years due to technology.
We have discussed that modern technology has made it easier for law enforcement to share information regarding crimes and the people who allegedly commit them. As a case is pending, a person’s CORI is updated and so outside agency’s can access the information. Further, when someone is convicted of a crime, that conviction is also reflected in the CORI. Through the computers, it is easier for that information to haunt you.
Likewise, if you are convicted of an offense which can effect your driver’s license, the Registry of Motor Vehciles is notified through the same system and so takes whatever action it decides to make.
However, it does not end there.
I am often contacted by people who decided at some point not to join in the festivities of their court dates at some point. Sometimes, they stay local and hope to fade into the wood work. Often, they leave the Commonwealth, or even the country, in expectatuion that the court has bigger fish to fry than them and so will simply dismiss the case. They are wrong.
While there may be bigger fish…the criminal justice hook in you remains.
When you do not appear for a court date, a default warrant is issued in your name. This is an arrest warrant which, at some point, will come back to haunt you. Maybe the police will come a-knockin’ at the worst possible time. Sometimes you will be stopped for some motor vehcile infraction and then the warrant comes up and you find yourself arrested and brought back to court.
The same is true if you try to get or renew a driver’s license. Whether you are in the Commonwealth or in another state, the Massachusetts outstanding warrant is likely to come up and you will, at the very least, be denied the license.
Most people understand that this will happen if they stay local. They seem to think that, by leaving the state, the defeault warrant cannot touch them.
Again, this is a misconception.
Today’s technology makes it easier than ever for the entire world to know about your problems with the criminal justice system.
“Well, what are they going to do, Sam? Send out an officer to search the country and arrest me?”
No. They will simply wait. One day you may want to travel again. Perhaps you will even try to enter the United States. As you attempt to do so, you are likely to be detained because of the warrant and notify the Commonwealth who will decide what to do with you next.
“Well, what should I do if I realize this now, after reading this blog? Am I already screwed and need only wait until I am arrested? I mean, years have gone by and the case was not very serious. Is there anything pro-active I can do to clear the matter up?”
Yes, there is. Not only that, but if you deal with the matter proactively, it is likely to be seen as a voluntary act. This means that should you physically return to court on your own, the chances of your being held on bail lessen. Naturally, someone who is dragged in because they were arrested on the warrant has a greater chance of being held. This is true for a number of reasons.
Well, the first one is obvious. If you have come in volunrtarily, then you are showing a desire to work the matter out…therefore you are more likely to show up at future court dates if there are any. If you were brought in because you tripped a warrant-mine, then there is reason to believe that you will abscond once again should you be offered the street.
There is another reason which is based on simple timing. If you are dragged in by law enforcement, most likely nobody at the court is expecting you. While the court may (or may not) be able to access its file right away, the prosecutor will not. Therefore, you are likely to be held in custody until everybody becomes re-acquainted with your case.
Of course, you run the risk of the former reason even if you make it to court volunteerilly.
“So, what is the best way to handle the situation if I have a default warrant out and I do not want to be held?”
What I suggest is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
“How can the lawyer help me at this point?”
Well, what I do in these instances is reach out to both the clerk and Commonwealth. I try to set up a time for my client and myself to show up in court to clear the warrant. This prevents the risk of the client being held due to the confussion of nobody knowing anytghing about him or her. I also try to work it out beforehand that my client will not be held on heavy bail. Sometimes this is possible, sometimes it is not….but it is the best attempt.
“Is there any way I can take care of the outstanding warrant without showing up personally?”
Let’s get to that question tomorrow as well as how the new technology actuallty helps the defense…so long as the attorney knows how to use it.