Interviewer: Let’s discuss aspects of a general criminal case. How does someone know if they’re under indictment, if they have a warrant out for them, or if they’re in trouble, criminally, with the law? Will they just be arrested and that’s that, will they get notice, or how else would they find out?
Stuart Austin: About 98% of indictments are not what you’re talking about, meaning before the person is indicted; they have what’s called a felony complaint. They are brought before a court, they’re arraigned on the felony complaint, and then the indictment is subsequent to that.
There are about 2 to 5% of defendants, who are under direct indictment, which is a secret proceeding where the person will not know, unfortunately, until the police come up to their door and say, “We have a warrant for your arrest, based on a grand jury’s findings.”
You Can Inquire About Whether or Not There Is a Warrant Out For Your Arrest; However, the Call Is Better Made by an Attorney
With regards to somebody who has a case and forgot about it, or did something criminal and now thinks there is a warrant out for their arrest, you can usually call the local court, and the local warrant squad of the local precinct. You can ask them if they know where the warrant’s issued out of, and you can ask them questions about the warrant.
I usually say that that’s a little tough because you’re calling up and saying, “Hi. I’m so-and-so. Is there a warrant for my arrest?” It’s a little better to have an attorney do that for you so that he can just check. You can even have a friend do it, although it’s not a safe practice. This is because the attorney has the attorney- client privilege and knows what to say to the police and won’t be tripped up into giving them more incriminating information.
Interviewer: If an attorney calls for you and they do find out you have a warrant, are they obligated to make you come in and turn yourself in, or you don’t have to?
Stuart Austin: No. Most people have to realize is the attorney is working for you. Their code of ethics is to represent the client. With that in mind, if you don’t want to turn yourself in, then you don’t have to. The attorney cannot go to the district attorney and say, “I know where he is. Here’s what’s going on.”
If there’s a warrant for your arrest, if you want to turn yourself in, then do. You discuss it with your attorney and if it’s in your best interest that’s great, but even after that, if you decide not to then you part ways with that attorney.