Finding out that there is a warrant for your arrest is stressful and frightening, but it’s even worse if you think there is a warrant but you can’t find out for sure. The uncertainty and the waiting can often be a great deal more stressful than just taking care of the warrant and moving on with your life, but unfortunately in Maryland the judicial system is set up to keep many warrants sealed. The two types of arrest warrants in Maryland are bench warrants and arrest warrants. District or circuit court judges commonly issue bench warrants in cases where the defendant fails to appear or has violated a condition of his or her probation or pre-trial release. A judge can also issue a bench warrant for failure to pay fines or court costs, though this is much less common. Bench warrants are pubic and easily accessible by searching online or going to the clerk’s office. Arrest warrants on the other hand are issued by court commissioners or judges upon receiving a charging document from the State’s Attorney’s Office, a police officer or a civilian. Arrest warrants are sealed for 90 days or until served, which means the public will not be able to look them up on the case search website.
If you think you may have an arrest warrant there may be ways for you to confirm it, but this depends where your case is located. Some police departments such as Montgomery County are more than happy to check to see if you have a warrant, and even have warrants departments for this very purpose. It seems in their eyes there is a greater likelihood a person will schedule a turn in if they can know for sure there is a warrant. Other counties like Baltimore County have a strict policy where they will only give out warrant information to the defendant in person by showing up at a precinct. Baltimore County and many other police departments around Maryland do not give out warrant information over the phone, even to a lawyer. This obviously makes it more difficult to plan for a surrender prior to a warrant squad coming to get you at an inconvenient time. There is really no sound logic to keeping all warrants sealed, as most people who think they have a warrant will behave as if they do have one, and not just sit back and wait to be arrested. The exception is the issuance of a warrant pursuant to a sealed indictment in a complex criminal investigation where the risk of flight is high, but these cases are not the norm (especially in the state court system).
If you are able to find out that there is an arrest warrant the two most sensible options are to attempt to file a motion to convert the warrant into a summons or to surrender on your own terms. A criminal defense lawyer can file a motion to convert an arrest warrant into a summons as long as he or she can locate the case number. Some district court judges will deny these motions as a matter of course and cite the District Court Administrative Regulations, but these regulations do not clearly prohibit a judge from converting a warrant into a summons, so it’s always worth a shot. If the motion is denied the next best option is to schedule a surrender at a police precinct or a commissioner’s office that is next to a jail or police station. Defendants who are served with an arrest warrant will have to be booked before seeing the commissioner, so the process may take several hours. In arrest warrant cases where there is a pre-set bail the defendant will not see the commissioner and can post bail as soon as the booking process is completed. Defendants can also wait until the next day to see the judge to request a reduced or unsecured bail, or release on recognizance.
Anyone who thinks they have an arrest warrant in Maryland can call Benjamin Herbst at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation about how to take care of the warrant as quickly and as stress free as possible. Benjamin is an experienced criminal defense lawyer that handles all types of charges in every state and federal jurisdiction in Maryland.