I often get questions from people who have outstanding warrants asking when the warrant will expire. Every time I get one of these questions, I have to roll my eyes a bit – because when a person asks that questions, it indicates they do not understand what is going on when a warrant is issued.
In California, (and the rest of the US as far as I know) nearly all warrants are court orders instructing a law enforcement agency (usually the County Sheriff for a state warrant) to take a person into custody. Most warrants are issued because of a problem in a pending case, such as a missed court date. Because it is a court order, a warrant can only be recalled by the court that issued it.
Regardless of whether the warrant comes from the Los Angeles Criminal Court, traffic court, or federal court, there are pretty much only 3 ways to get a warrant recalled:
1) law enforcement takes person into custody;
2) person goes to court and cures the problem that led to the warrant issuance; or
3) person posts bail with the court and schedules court date to deal with the warrant.
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Some warrants are easier to take care of than others. For example a warrant with a $500 bail may be resolved without jail time if taken care of correctly, but a warrant with a $1,000,000 bail means the person is going to jail for sure.
But there is no expiration period for a warrant. They cannot, and should not be ignored for even a day. Even a 10 year old warrant can result in arrest on the road, at the airport, or even at your place of work.
Courts that issue warrants do not just give up on their order to take a person into custody after a certain amount of time. The warrants stay active until the problem is cured.
Many times in my 12 (or is it 13 now?) years of being a trial attorney, I have seen warrants 10 or more years old result in the arrest of a person.
In nearly all warrants, a court appearance is mandatory. There is almost never a way to take care of a warrant by telephone (unless you use the telephone to hire an attorney and/or post bail)
The “statute of limitations” does not apply in any way to a warrant. A “Statute of Limitations” is a deadline for a prosecutor to File Charges with the Court. It is not in any way a deadline to catch a person.
And no, leaving the state or country does not solve a warrant problem. It only makes it worse. For example, last year I talked with a potential client that had a 15 year old warrant in Santa Clara County Superior Court. It was a no bail warrant, and he had left the US to live in a new country, thinking he could out run the warrant.
Well, in the end, it turned out that the new country denied him residency due to the warrant in the US, and were in the process of booting him. And the real trouble came around when he discovered he probably could not fly back to the US without being arrested on the very old warrant. I wanted to help him and have him hire me – but in the end I had to just tell him he was screwed. Even though the warrant was years old, he was going to prison for sure.
If you have a warrant pending, I strongly recommend getting one of our FREE ATTORNEY CASE REVIEWS and/or contacting the court to determine what to do. Do not delay. Everyday that a warrant remains pending makes it harder to get a good result.
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