South Florida is a popular location for tourists. Unfortunately, cities and counties make a lot of money from court costs and fines which is why tourists are often targeted for arrests. Alcohol-related offenses such as disorderly intoxication are common for students on spring break or people just visiting Miami or Fort Lauderdale for fun.
Felony arrests can also occur. However, since misdemeanors and most felonies are bondable, the accused will post a bond and return home, waiting to receive a notice in the mail for a court date.
Oftentimes, the Clerk's office doesn't send the notice to the right address. Or the notice gets lost in the mail. Or sometimes the notice doesn't get sent out at all. Some people think that if they post a bond and are released from jail, then the case is somehow over.
All of these things contribute to people failing to appear for court. You should never fail to appear for court and if you are out of state, you should hire a defense attorney so that your presence can be waived and you may not have to come to court.
But if you missed your arraignment date (your first court date), this is something that needs to be dealt with in an urgent manner. If the charge is a misdemeanor and you missed court, a bench warrant has been issued. A bench warrant will usually have a bond amount attached to it. That way if you are arrested, you can post a bond.
If you have failed to appear in court for a felony charge, an alias capias was issued. These do not come with bond amounts because felonies are more serious than misdemeanors. The prevailing logic is that if you fail to appear in court for a felony, you should not be allowed to bond out without first seeing the judge who issued the warrant.
If you failed to appear in court for a misdemeanor, you will probably not have to return to South Florida if you hire a lawyer. I waive my clients' presence all the time for bench warrant matters. If the warrant was issued at arraignment and is addressed within a reasonable time after the warrant is issued, it is usually no problem to clear it up.
If you have a felony warrant, you will have to appear in court. You should hire a lawyer ahead of time so you don't go into court alone.
But if you decide that a warrant in another state is no big deal, think again. If you let that warrant just sit there, this is what could happen:
You could be denied social security benefits.
You could be denied employment.
You could be denied a loan.
You could be denied a lease or mortgage.
You could be arrested and extradited to Florida.
You could be detained if trying to re-enter the U.S. upon returning from a foreign trip.
These are just a few things that could happen if you don't address a warrant properly.
Warrants happen. We are human and we forget to fulfill our responsibilities at times. Also, a lot of the time, the failure to appear was not a willful failure to appear. Most of the time, the accused doesn't get notice of the court date.
If you have an outstanding warrant in Miami-Dade or Broward, call me to see how we can clear up the matter quickly.