A lot of people mistakenly believe that a misdemeanor bench warrant from a court in Miami or Broward County cannot hurt you. Especially people who visit South Florida, get arrested, and then return home without ever dealing with their case. They figure that it's just a misdemeanor and it's no big deal. Wrong.
First of all, a bench warrant, even for a misdemeanor offense like possession of marijuana or petit theft (shoplifting), does not just go away on its own. It can last forever. While you may be able to avoid arrest and extradition if you live outside of the State of Florida, the warrant will come up as active in any criminal background check. It can cause delays, even detention by authorities, when traveling internationally. And if you return to Florida and you are stopped for a traffic infraction, the officer can take you into custody, even if you are outside of the county where the warrant was issued.
An active warrant can prevent you from receiving assistance, such as Social Security or disability payments.
If you are arrested in Miami or Broward (Fort Lauderdale) for a misdemeanor offense while on vacation, you can retain a criminal attorney to represent you in your absence. Florida law permits an attorney to waive your presence for misdemeanor offenses.
It is far cheaper and easier in the longrun to do this. If you are arrested in South Florida while visiting, call me instead of leaving the state and trying to handle things yourself. You will have return to Florida for your court date if you do not have a lawyer, and if you fail to return, a bench warrant will be issued.
If you have had a bench warrant issued for you in Miami-Dade County or Broward County, I may be able to set the warrant aside for you without you having to physically appear in court.
Eric Matheny is a Miami and Broward criminal defense attorney assisting clients with bench warrants. It doesn't matter how old your warrant is. Take care of it now.