How to Know if You Have a Warrant in New York

How to Know if You Have a Warrant in New York

If you have ever been charged with a criminal offense in New York, you’ll want to know whether a warrant exists for your arrest so that you can decide on the right course of legal action. However, you may be unclear as to how you find this information, and what it actually means to have an arrest warrant.

District Court Criminal complaint court papers with handcuffs and blue pen on United States flag close up

Here, we’ll go through what an arrest warrant is, why a judge may give you one, the consequences of ignoring an arrest warrant, and how you can find out for yourself whether you have one or not.

Arrest Warrant vs Bench Warrant

Before we go further into the details of arrest warrants and how they’re given, it’s important to establish the difference between an outstanding arrest warrant and an outstanding bench warrant, as bench warrants are issued for different reasons often unrelated to committing a crime.

An arrest warrant is an order that allows a police officer to bring a suspect into custody if, for example, an empaneled grand jury through a felony indictment finds probable cause to believe that the suspect committed a crime. Not all arrests require a warrant – if you are stopped for a speeding ticket, for instance, the officer does not require a warrant to arrest you – but arrest warrants are often used to initiate a criminal case by the New York City Police Department.

On the other hand, bench warrants are given specifically if someone violates the rules of the New York City Criminal Court. A bench warrant may be given if you don’t turn up to a court date, or if you fail to follow a court order such as obeying a restraining order or paying a fine.

Additionally, there are other kinds of warrants like search warrants, which are given when police have probable cause to think that criminal evidence may be on someone’s property, and extradition warrants, which are given if someone is charged with or convicted of a crime and flees the state.

Judges Giving Arrest Warrants

A state judge can issue an arrest warrant in New York City criminal courts for a felony or misdemeanor offense. But generally speaking, arrest warrants are issued if the court believes that a ticketed summons is not enough to ensure that the person charged will appear at their arraignment. Most of the time, arrest warrants are given for class D felonies and above for this reason.

Arrest Warrant Expiration Date

Regardless of how long ago the warrant was issued, an arrest warrant or bench warrant issued within New York State cannot expire after a given period of time. For example, if a person committed an armed robbery in New York City and managed to avoid detainment, a law enforcement officer could still bring them in on the same arrest warrant years, or even decades later.

The only two conditions under which an arrest warrant can expire are if the defendant dies, or if the defendant has appeared before a judge in the court that issued the warrant.

Finding Out Whether You Have An Arrest Warrant

If you are concerned that you may have a warrant for your arrest in New York City, you may be tempted to avoid knowing the truth, but we encourage you to find out as soon as possible so that you can contact a criminal defense attorney and know your options. It’s also good to know so that you can ensure you’re voluntarily detained, as waiting only increases your chance of a police officer involuntarily detaining you in public, which can be distressing, particularly for loved ones who may be with you.

In general, it is best to avoid calling the police to find out this information. Instead you should contact a criminal defense attorney who can reach out to the police on your behalf, ascertain what is happening, protect your rights, and arrange a possible turn in. An attorney can also assist in helping determine if there is a warrant in New York City by contacting the New York City Criminal Court System. 

Ignoring an Arrest Warrant

If you are unaware that you have a warrant for your arrest, this unfortunately is not considered a robust defense in a court of law. Arrest warrants can be, and typically are, issued without prior warning to avoid the risk of the individual fleeing, so if you have committed a crime, there is a chance that the police can detain you at any time.

For example, if you have been issued a warrant for missing child support payments, law enforcement can show up at your door at any time, even if you’re unaware that this has resulted in a warrant. Penalties are even more severe if you have been released on bail and subsequently fail to show up to a court date in an attempt to avoid your warrant again – in this case, you may also be charged with bail jumping.

This is why it is important to contact a lawyer if you suspect there may be a warrant for your arrest. We’re trained to defend you, can help you voluntarily surrender with your dignity intact, and can also assist in cases of mistaken identity where you were not the perpetrator of the crime for which a warrant was issued.

Talk To A New York City Lawyer

You can contact our criminal law firm today to find out if you or a loved one has had a warrant issued for their arrest in the criminal court of New York County, Bronx County, Queens County, Richmond County, or Kings County.

If you have found that there is an arrest warrant issued to you in New York City, you can contact our law offices for advice and support. A criminal defense lawyer can help you understand why a warrant has been issued, help prepare a defense against your charge, and even assist in proving your innocence if the warrant has been issued to you mistakenly.

We can also assist with your voluntary surrender and, if necessary, ensure that bail is quickly paid so that you can return home soon after your arraignment.