It is a very common situation. You are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor, and either do not get notice of your court date in the mail or you completely forget to go. This is even more common when issued a written promise to appear (PTA), as you are supposed to receive a court notice in the mail. That depends on whether the police officer took down your correct address and whether the folks in the Clerk's Office sent the notice properly.
The penalties for failing to appear for a scheduled court appearance can include having to post another bond, or being taken into custody.
There are two types of warrants issued in criminal matters for failure to appear. In County Court (where misdemeanors and criminal traffic offenses are handled), failure to appear will result in the issuance of a bench warrant. A bond amount will typically be set so that if you are picked up by police officers, you can usually post the bond to be released.
In Circuit Court (where felonies are handled), failure to appear will result in the issuance of an alias capias , or A/C. If you are picked up for an outstanding A/C, you will be held without bond until brought before the judge who issued it.
Now you don't have to be picked up by police in order to deal with an outstanding warrant. Simply being proactive and checking the status of your case online can help eliminate outstanding warrants. If your case is in Miami-Dade County, visit the Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts website and enter in your personal information in order to find out what's going on with your case. If your case is in Broward County, visit the Broward Clerk of Courts website.
If you find out that you have an outstanding warrant, do not attempt to deal with it on your own. Call a criminal defense attorney who can set the case on the judge's calendar and may be able to have the warrant quashed, or dismissed. If you try to fix it yourself, you may be taken into custody or may have to pay the bond.
In misdemeanor cases, bench warrants are issued all the time, namely because the accused did not receive notice in the mail. This happens a lot when the accused is arrested while visiting South Florida, and upon returning to their home city, state, or country, they learn that they have an outstanding warrant.
If this is a misdemeanor case, a local criminal attorney (one who serves Miami-Dade and Broward) can often deal with a warrant without the presence of the accused. That means that you can hire a lawyer to address the warrant without having to travel to South Florida.
Be advised, however, that the State Attorney's Office considers when the warrant was issued in determining whether to object to the court's setting aside the warrant. If you failed to appear at arraignment, the State Attorney will typically not object. If you failed to appear at trial, then the State will object.
With an A/C, it is rare that an attorney can have the warrant quashed without the accused being present. That is because felonies are more serious than misdemeanors. But even if you failed to appear for a court appearance for a felony, a good lawyer can still be able to get the warrant dismissed provided there is a good explanation for your failure to appear.
You can avoid an A/C completely by retaining a criminal lawyer early in your felony case because once a criminal lawyer files a written plea of not guilty, the presence of the accused is automatically waived at arraignment.
Don't let warrants get old. The older the warrant, the worse it looks for you. That's because the judge will think that you didn't take the matter seriously because you let it get so old. If you find out that you have a warrant, contact an attorney right away. These matters can be dealt with if caught early enough.