An arrest or a bench warrant is an order for a person's immediate arrest. Warrants for arrest can arise in numerous situations. The warrant may be derived from a variety of minor non-criminal incidents such as unpaid parking tickets or an unanswered summons. For example, if you have been issued a summons for a non-criminal action, such as possession of an open container (of alcohol in public), being in the park after dark, public urination or littering, and you did not appear in court for the return on the summons, a warrant will be ordered. If you already have a pending criminal matter and you miss a court appearance, a judge may order a warrant for your arrest. Additionally, if you have pled guilty to a crime or a non-criminal violation, and were ordered to complete community service or pay a fine, and did not follow through, a warrant may be ordered.
Having an open warrant exposes an individual to be picked up by the police and taken either immediately to the police station or to the court house. Depending on the time of day, an individual picked up on a warrant may have to spend a night in jail, even if the offense for which the warrant was generated is not an offense punishable by jail time. Any time a person is stopped in a vehicle, whether they are the driver or the passenger, the police typically run all the names of the vehicle's occupants through their internal system to see if any open warrants exist. In light of the recent Supreme Court case, Utah v. Strieff, decided on June 20, 2016, the police now have even more of a reason to stop drivers and pedestrians and run warrant checks.
In Utah v. Strieff, 59 U.S. ___ (June 20, 2016) the Supreme Court ruled that if the police stop and search an individual in violation of their fourth amendment constitutional rights and recover contraband, this evidence will not be suppressed on the basis of an illegal search and seizure if the individual has an open warrant. For example, if you are walking down the street and a police officer stops and searches you because he does not like color of your skin or the way you are dressed - and drugs are allegedly recovered - this evidence, which previously would have been suppressed at trial due to the illegal nature of the search, is now admissible. Practically speaking, this ruling essentially allows the police to stop and search individuals for no reason at all. If it turns out the individual stopped has an arrest warrant, the illegal recovery of any contraband becomes validated. Open warrants become a backdoor to admit illegally obtained evidence against an accused.
In her strongly worded dissent, Justice Sotomayor noted the ramifications for this decision, explaining that "the court holds today that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer's violation of your fourth amendment rights. … This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants - even if you are doing nothing wrong." Strieff, 59 U.S. ___ (June 20, 2016). USA Today reports that there are 1.2 million outstanding warrants in New York City alone. That translates into possibly 1.2 million illegal searches and seizures that will be made valid because of the existence of these warrants. The arrest warrants have become a safety net for police to fall back on and justifying their continual violation of individuals fourth amendment rights. The NYPD now have 1.2 million more reasons to continue their practice of illegal searches and seizures, violating the civil rights of citizens everywhere.
If you are arrested on an open bench warrant, the following articles may provide some insight on what to expect after a New York City arrest:
- New York City Arrest Process: Written Confessions & Exercising the 5th Amendment at the Precinct
- New York City Arrest Process: Pre-Arraignment Detention, How to Prepare for Your NYC Bail Hearing
If you or someone you know has an open arrest warrant, you obviously cannot afford to wait any longer to clear it up - call the top New York criminal attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman now before you get picked up by the police. The bench warrant attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman will walk you through the process of clearing up a warrant, making sure that your civil rights are not violated in the process.