When a federal investigative agency, such as the FBI, the ATF or the DEA, feels they have sufficient evidence to suspect that you have committed a crime, they present their case to a federal magistrate judge.
If the magistrate feels there is enough evidence to move forward, he or she will issue a federal arrest warrant. The warrant is typically executed by a U.S. Marshal, although any person who is authorized by the courts to serve a civil federal summons may also execute the warrant.
The warrant must include:
- The defendant’s name, or if not known, a description by which the defendant can be identified with reasonable certainty
- A description of the offense being charged
- Command that the defendant be arrested and brought without unnecessary delay before a magistrate judge or, if none is reasonably available, before a state or local judicial officer
- Be signed by a judge
How do you know if there is a federal warrant for your arrest?
The U.S. Marshal’s Service keeps track of all those who have a federal arrest warrant through the Warrant Information System (WIN). This WIN system “contains the warrant, court records, internal correspondence related to the warrant and other information on individuals for whom Federal warrants have been issued.” This is not information that is available to you; only to those with a need-to-know reason to perform their official duties, and is “restricted to only those privileges necessary to perform assigned tasks.”
Sometimes (though rarely) you may receive a letter from the court or one may be sent to your attorney. If you are comfortable in doing so, you can call the clerk at the federal (or if it feels safer, have somebody call) to find out if there’s an outstanding warrant. You also have the option of going to the court to do a federal warrant search—but that is not without risk.
You may hear from a relative or friend who has received a call from the authorities, inquiring as to your whereabouts or asking for other information. Unfortunately, “knock and announce,” where law enforcement officials bang on your door and identify themselves and their authority to enter, is the way many find out that a federal warrant for their arrest is being executed.
You may be able check online to see if you may have a federal arrest warrant.
While it doesn’t replace the need for an attorney, you may be able to find out if a federal (or state) arrest warrant has been issued. Florida residents can check here: http://pas.fdle.state.fl.us/pas/restricted/PAS/person/WantedPersons.jsf
Please note that this information is not necessarily up to date and includes only information that has been authorized for release to the public.
What should you do if have an outstanding warrant?
Depending on the severity and circumstances of the crime for which a federal warrant has been issued, it is often in your best interest to have your attorney arrange a surrender to the authorities. While this may seem counterintuitive, it often puts you in a better position. It shows the court and the authorities that you have legal representation and that you are less likely to be a flight risk. It usually increases your chances of getting a prompt initial court appearance and detention hearing, as well as a greater chance of being released on bail.
How a federal criminal defense lawyer can help if you have a warrant for your arrest
Hiring a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible may not prevent a warrant from being issued, but it can help you be prepared for what comes next. Your attorney is there to protect your rights and help ensure that you get due process; in other words, the fair treatment to which you are entitled under the Constitution. This includes working on the pretrial phase of your defense. This is a critical part of your defense that has a potentially significant role in determining the outcome of your case.
In addition to learning about the charges against you, your attorney looks for any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case—including physical evidence, witness statements, and law enforcement reports and records: all with an eye toward finding out whether there is insufficient evidence or any other gaps in the government’s case that can be leveraged in your favor.
If it is in your best interest, this is also the time where a plea bargain may be reached. Most often, this is where an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer negotiates with the prosecutor to get the best deal for you. Motions in your case may include a motion to dismiss due to lack of evidence, motion to exclude certain evidence from the trial or to force the other side to disclose evidence that may be in your favor, or even a motion to change the location of the trial.
When choosing an attorney, make sure you find one who:
- Has specific experience in defending those charged with federal crimes, such as drug or arms trafficking or federal fraud activities
- Can explain what is happening clearly and keeps you informed through every step of the process
- Is trial-tested and aggressive in defending your rights
Talk to a skilled federal crimes defense lawyer
Even if you have already been arrested, you have the right to legal counsel. Don’t forgo that right. Call (305) 403-7323 or reach out to attorney Nayib Hassan online to discuss your case and your needs.