This has been a pretty bad week for you as far as the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog is concerned. Earlier in the week, you were facing two trials. Yesterday, you were arrested.
The news is good and bad today. The good news is that you have not been arrested after all. The bad news is that you have learned that there is a Massachusetts warrant out for your arrest.
Similar to the issues discussed yesterday, there are general factors when it comes to arrest warrants which are the same whether the underlying accusations are for a Tewksbury home invasion, a Mattapan gun possession or a Swampscott drug case.
However, with such a warrant, law enforcement can pick you up any place and any time and place you in custody. There will not be any issue of bail until you find yourself in front of a judge, who must then vacate the warrant. Then, there will likely be a Massachusetts bail hearing to decide where you will be staying for the next several months (at least).
There is a simple two-word answer to the question of what to do when you find out about the warrant. Namely, “Get Counsel“!
On the other hand, if you are a daily reader of this blog, you know that every few situations in criminal justice can be summed up in two words.
Attorney Sam’s Take On MA Arrest Warrants
Massachusetts arrest warrants are usually issued when one of two things have happened. One is that, whether you knew it or not, there was a criminal investigation taking place in your name. The Commonwealth has decided to charge you with one or more crimes. The purpose of the warrant is to have you picked up and brought in before the court. In custody. Once there, the lawyers can argue under what conditions you might be released.
The other typical instance during which an arrest warrant is ordered by the court is when you have a criminal matter pending for which you failed to show up. It can be at any time during the pendency of the matter. This is generally called a “Default Warrant”. It can be a real problem for you both now and later.
First of all, if the police have to go out and get you back to court because you did not show up on your own, you are likely to be facing another bail hearing and your bail condition, both in terms of money and probationary supervision, is probably going to be tougher. Not only that, but there is a “default removal fee” imposed and the money originally posted for bail may be forfeited. Finally, there is new legislation which makes defaulting a crime in and of itself.
The warrant will also come back to haunt you in future bail hearings and in any other instances in which you might fail to show up as expected. You see, the defaults are recorded on your CORI, or criminal record. It is a “gift” that keeps giving…to the prosecution.
“Ok, Sam, you’ve got my attention. Having an outstanding is bad news. Is there anything I can do about it, or should I just end it all?”
As indicated above, there are things you can do about it. The most important thing, however, is what not to do.
That would be ignore it.
That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Apparently, though, it isn’t. After years of warning people about this in this blog, I still find clients who figure, particularly in the case of default warrants, that, after some time goes by, the courts will forget all about the case and somehow make it vanish.
It does not work that way. Not even if you wait several years. Not even if you move out of town. Not even if you move out of state. In fact, should you successfully left the country around the time of the warrant and later try to come back to visit, you are likely to set off the warrant like a waiting trap door.
Once you fall through, you will land in custody.
Neither types of arrest warrants simply “go away”. Sooner or later, you will have to do something in life that will trigger the warrant and you will be dragged before the court to continue where the matter left off.
The best way to deal with the warrant is to do so voluntarily while you still can.
“So, I just go to court on my own at any time and there will not be any further risk?”
Depending on the circumstances, including your prior record of defaults, that could actually happen. However, there is a better chance that it will not. Particularly, for example, if it is a default warrant or an arrest warrant pursuant to new charges on a very serious matter, you have a fight on your hand. You have, however, by showing up on your own, made your chances of going home at the end of the day better than if you had had to be dragged in.
The best move is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney and have that attorney try to ease your return to the system. The lawyer can reach out to the prosecutor and to the court. In fact, he/she might even be able to work out an agreement that the Commonwealth will not seek to have you held upon your return.
At the very least, hiring counsel and returning to court with that lawyer sends the message that you are serious about clearing the matter up. It also gives you a chance to be represented by the attorney of your choice right away. Finally, that attorney will be walking into the bail argument knowing the history and what to argue rather than a court-appointed attorney who never even knew you were on the planet as the new day dawned.
Speaking of which, what if (when showing up due to a warrant or simply during the pendency of your case) you have decided you are unhappy with the lawyer who has been representing you? Are you stuck?
See you tomorrow.