CopTalk: Arrest Warrants and License Suspension


Arrest Warrants / License Suspension:

When people think about warrants, they think of Cop shows on television, with cops yelling out to open the door, then kicking or ramming the door down to make the arrests. In reality, if you got a ticket in the past, and didn’t take care of it, or you didn’t finish a work alternative program (W.A.P.), you very well could have a warrant out for your arrest.

How would this look:

It’s Friday night; your going out for pizza with the wife and kids, maybe some friends too. You got a ticket a few months back, and agreed to do 2 days of community service in place of a fine. You did one day, but something came up on the second day. No biggie, right? It was only a little ticket anyway. It slipped your mind, you were to going to call the courts and explain but you forgot.  Besides, they will send you something to notify you anyway, right?

As your driving to the pizza parlor with the family, you see red and blue lights behind you. You pull over, and the officer asks for your license and registration, along with proof of insurance. You ask what the problem is, and the officer says you have a taillight out. You breathe a little sigh of relief. You’ll get a warning, maybe a fix-it ticket at the worst, no problem. The officer asks you to step out of your car, and walk back to the front of the patrol car. He asks you to sign the ticket, and you do. As the officer hands you the ticket, his partner steps to the other side of you. The officer then says ” sir, turn around and interlace your hands behind your head” You say, “what’s going on?” and the officer says he’ll explain in a moment. The officer searches you, and then you feel handcuffs being put on your wrist. The officer explains that there is a warrant out for your arrest.

That little traffic ticket, you promised to do work alternative for, but failed to complete, turned into a W.A.P. warrant. (Work Alternative Program). That means go to jail, do not pass go, and no get out of jail free cards.  On a serious note, you are put in the back of a police car, your kids are crying, thinking cops are monsters who just took daddy away, and the officer has to try to explain to your shocked wife why your not joining them for pizza.

A very real reality. Something as simple as a traffic ticket not taken of can get you arrested. The most common types of warrants are F.T.A. (Failure To Appear) warrants, W.A.P. (work alternative program) warrants, and warrants issued for a crime you’re suspected of committing. We will discuss these one at a time.

First, the F.T.A. warrants:

If you get a traffic ticket, or get caught shoplifting, or get a citation for any type of infraction or misdemeanor crime, where you sign a “Promise To Appear” form, that is a hint. It’s a PROMISE TO APPEAR. For YOU to appear.   When you get a ticket, the cop usually says something like “this is not an admission of guilt, it’s a promise to appear at such and such court at such and such time or to take care of the problem before the court date” If you don’t appear, the judge issues a F.T.A.  (Failure To Appear) warrant.  On some of these, you can be brought into the station and booked (fingerprints, mug photo, booking form) and given a NEW court date. Usually a 1-2 hour process. You are then released on your new promise to appear. (If you miss that court date, you’ll have a no-cite or no-bail warrant issued, see below)

A W.A.P. warrant (Work Alternative Program) was briefly described above. If you get a ticket, and go to court, you are usually offered the option to go to traffic school or perform work alternative to avoid a fine or the offense going on your record. Usually work alternative is picking up trash on the roadsides on a work crew. If you fail to complete any or all of the assigned hours of work, the judge issues a W.A.P. warrant. You go to jail, and wait to see a judge. It’s usually a no-cite warrant, meaning you can not be released on a new Promise To Appear. Another words, the judge just doesn’t trust you anymore. If it’s a Friday, like the poor guy going to pizza with his family above, he’s going to sit in the county jail until Monday or Tuesday to see a judge. Then the judge will decide how much more time (if necessary) to spend behind bars. All for a missed ticket or work day for the courts. You really don’t want to piss off a judge by not showing up in court. I’ve had to arrest people with 4-5 year old warrants that they were not even aware of. I say Had To arrest people, because a warrant is a order signed by a judge to arrest that person, and I’m not going to piss off a judge by letting someone go with a warrant.

If you committed a serious crime, usually a Felony crime, you were probably already arrested for the crime, but you may have been released pending laboratory results of evidence, District Attorney review, whatever the case, if the D.A.’a (District Attorneys) office files charges against you, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. If it is a Felony warrant, it usually is a no-cite warrant, with a high bail amount. Bail is usually 10% of the set bail amount. For example, it you got arrested for Domestic Violence, and it carried a $50,000 bail amount, you would have to post 10% of that (or $5,000) to go free on bail. Some warrants are no-bail warrants. That means nothing will get you out of jail until you see a judge. No-cite, no-bail.

If you get arrested, your car will probably be towed to a tow yard. (Unless you have a real understanding cop and a licensed family member)  For a crime, or D.U.I., (driving under the influence), forget it. It’s towed. Besides being arrested, add a tow and storage fee to the total. If your in a accident with no insurance, or get arrested for D.U.I., you can lose your license. The D.M.V. (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) will suspend your license. If you get pulled over while driving on a suspended license, you can be arrested. Your car will be towed and impounded (in California for a 30-day minimum). That is about a $700-$800 bill.  Then, a warrant will be issued for your arrest for the offense of driving without a license.  Once this cycle starts, it is hard to stop. You have to get around, go to work, but you’ll lose a car and get a ticket every time you drive without a license. The fines add up fast.

What can you do to avoid Warrants / License Suspension?

  • If you feel that you may have forgotten to pay a fine, taken care of a ticket, or finish a Work Program in exchange for a fine, contact the Court District where you got the ticket, and have them look up the status of the case. If a warrant has been issued, you can go to any local Police Department and get booked and released with a new court date to appear. An inconvenience, but minor compared to getting arrested while going out for pizza with your family.
  • If by chance, your license is suspended for one reason or another, you may be able to get a exemption to drive to or from work, or be able to drive “in the course of employment” This is a privilege you don’t want to abuse. I have arrested people trying to buy drugs at 2 in the morning saying they are working. All exemptions to allow driving while employed will be verified. If they are not valid, no exemptions will be allowed.
  • Arrest warrants stay in the system for long periods of time, they don’t disappear in a year or two. If you feel you might have a warrant, or unpaid fine, call the courts and inquire. You might be able to make arrangements to make payments, or perform work alternative to pay off the fine. If it’s a warrant for a serious crime, you probably knew you had it coming.

While CopTalk tries to keep you from becoming a victim, you might have had an incident years ago that could cause you inconvenience or embarrassment now. This CopTalk tip can help you take care of a problem before it becomes major.


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