An arrest warrant is a court’s official authorization for law enforcement officers to arrest a suspect. There are many reasons why an arrest warrant can be issued in a criminal case. It is important for suspects and defendants to understand what happens when an arrest warrant is issued and how to protect their constitutional rights during an arrest.
When and Why are Arrest Warrants Issued?
Arrest warrants can be issued for several reasons. This can occur at many different stages in a criminal court case. With serious felony charges, an arrest warrant can be issued as soon as the charges are filed with the criminal court. (Charges can be filed directly by a prosecutor or through an indictment issued by a grand jury.) This ensures that the defendant will appear in court to respond to the charges.
With less serious misdemeanor charges, there is less of a chance the defendant will flee. It is, therefore, not always necessary to issue an arrest warrant. Sometimes an officer will issue a summons after writing you a ticket for a traffic offense or minor misdemeanor (like loitering). Other times a summons will be mailed to your home address. Do not ignore these summons! If you fail to appear in court at the assigned time, a warrant can be issued for failing to appear in court.
If you are released from police custody while your case is pending, you might have pretrial release conditions such as checking in with a court officer or abstaining from alcohol. If you violate these conditions, a warrant can be issued for your arrest. Many of these same conditions are part of a plea agreement. If you have entered a guilty plea with the court, you can also be arrested for violating these conditions. You might simply be summoned to court for minor violations. If, however, it is a serious violation (such as fleeing the jurisdiction), an arrest warrant is likely to be issued.
Can I Challenge an Arrest Warrant?
An arrest warrant is designed to bring the suspect to court to address the underlying charges at issue. Since you have to go to court to challenge an arrest, there is usually little point to trying to challenge an arrest warrant. What can be challenged is any violations of your constitutional rights that occurred during the arrest. This can lead to evidence being excluded from trial, which in turn can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the criminal charges against you.
What Should I Do During and After an Arrest?
Thanks to popular crime shows, most of us are familiar with the famous Miranda Warnings. These warnings protect you from violations of your constitutional protections against self-incrimination and your right to legal counsel. If you do not receive these warnings, any statements made while under “custodial interrogation” (incrimination questioning done while in police custody) are inadmissible against you.
During an arrest, you should not make any statements about the evidence or charges against you. You can answer basic administrative questions that are necessary for the booking process. For example, you can confirm your name and date of birth. Politely decline to answer any questions about the charges and clearly state that you must speak with an attorney.
Experienced Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers for All Warrant Issues
Even before charges are filed in court, suspects have many legal rights that protect them during the arrest process. These rights are guaranteed by the federal and state constitutions, as well as state and federal case law. It is important to have an attorney who understands these rights and will fight to protect them. The experienced Austin criminal defense lawyers at Granger and Mueller, P.C., have been serving Travis County residents for over 25 years. Call 512-474-9999 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with a skilled Texas defense attorney.