When someone is arrested by a King County law enforcement officer who does not have an arrest warrant, that person has probably committed a crime that the officer observed directly. Most arrests for driving under the influence, for example, are made without arrest warrants. In many cases, however, if no officer observes a crime being committed, the police will obtain an arrest warrant from a judge before they place a suspect under arrest for that crime.

Seattle criminal defense attorney Kevin Trombold explains that warrants are serious business and a symbol of the state’s power over our lives: “Warrants are the government’s way to remind everyone that they have a monopoly on your liberty. No other entity can put you in a cement and metal box. Although the government has many other options to exert control over people, the ultimate control of your liberty is theirs alone.”

Attorney Trombold continues and explains precisely what a warrant is – and is not: “It’s not a fine. It’s not a hold on your driver’s license. It’s not something that attaches to your property such as a car or your home or your apartment. It’s not something that prevents you from riding the bus or doing any other government function. It’s something that puts you in a box and gives you very, very limited contact with the outside world, without your consent. If any other entity did this, it is called a crime.”

EXACTLY WHAT DOES AN ARREST WARRANT DO?

In the state of Washington, an arrest warrant gives law officers the authority to take a criminal suspect into custody. Anyone in King County who believes that a warrant has been issued for his or her arrest should contact an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney immediately.

Your attorney can determine if there is or is not a warrant for your arrest, what you’re charged with, and what the bail amount will be. Your attorney will protect your rights and can also arrange for you to turn yourself in to avoid a public arrest.

An arrest warrant in the state of Washington must include the suspect’s name, the precise charge, the jurisdiction, date, and time of the warrant’s issuance, and the signature of the judge. Washington’s judges issue arrest warrants based on evidence offered by the police, evidence offered by a prosecutor, or on the basis of a grand jury indictment.

The police or the prosecutor seeking an arrest warrant must have “probable cause” for the warrant. Probable cause is not a hunch or a feeling. Probable cause is sufficient evidence for the reasonable belief that the person being named in the arrest warrant may, in fact, have committed the crime.

WHAT IS A BENCH WARRANT?

Additionally, an arrest warrant called a “bench warrant” can be issued if a criminal defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court hearing. A “civil” arrest warrant can be issued in this state for a parent who has been delinquent with child support payments. And anyone who has been subpoenaed as a witness in a criminal trial can be named in a warrant and arrested to ensure that person’s appearance in court.

In Washington, there are several ways to determine if a warrant has been issued for your arrest, but the smartest way to find out if you are wanted for arrest is to work through an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney.

That way, your rights will be protected from the start, and you’ll have an advocate speaking for you and working on your behalf. To prevent misidentifications and false arrests, the King County Sheriff’s Office will not provide any warrant information over the phone or by email.

There is never such a thing as a convenient time to be arrested. If a warrant has been issued for your arrest in the state of Washington, you must deal with it as swiftly as possible. Background checks for employment, housing, firearms purchases, and government benefits almost always include active warrants, and the Washington Department of Licensing can suspend the driver’s license of anyone with an active warrant. Moreover, the longer you avoid an arrest warrant, the less likely it is that a reasonable bail amount will be set for you.

HOW DOES BAIL WORK IN KING COUNTY?

A Washington court considers two factors when it establishes a bail amount. First, will the bail amount be sufficient to ensure the defendant’s presence in court? That is, will the bail amount be sufficient to keep the defendant from fleeing the jurisdiction and becoming a fugitive? Secondly, will the amount of bail be sufficient to protect the public?

As a rule of thumb, the more serious the charge, the higher the bail amount. If the crime is a capital offense, if the defendant is already on probation, or if the defendant has previously failed to appear in court, the court has the right to deny bail to that defendant.

If there is an active arrest warrant for you in King County, you can be arrested anywhere, and you could be extradited back to King County depending on the details of the charge. On a murder charge, King County will attempt extradition, but if the crime is a lesser felony or a misdemeanor, and you are thousands of miles away, King County may not make the extradition effort.

When a fugitive is not extradited, the warrant is still active, and the suspect could be arrested on that warrant if he or she returns to King County. When a fugitive is extradited, that suspect will face the original charge as well as an additional charge for the flight from justice.

Arrest warrants issued in the state of Washington never really “go away” until an arrest is made. Once an arrest warrant has been issued, no statute of limitations applies because the warrant itself satisfies the statute’s requirements.

Active arrest warrants do in fact “expire,” but those warrants are virtually always renewed automatically by the courts that have issued them. If you are named in an arrest warrant issued in King County, or if you think there is an active warrant for your arrest, contact an experienced defense attorney at once.

Seattle criminal defense attorney Kevin Trombold offers these words regarding arrest warrants and the reason you must contact an attorney if you believe there is a warrant for your arrest: “Warrants are the most dangerous aspect of government power in a criminal case because, with a warrant, the police can walk into any environment and arrest you in front of anyone at any time of day. After a warrant is issued and a person is arrested, their incarceration puts pressure on the case that prevents us from developing defenses and fighting the case. Warrants lead to convictions.”

Even if you are “only” under investigation and no arrest warrant has yet been issued with your name, your attorney may be able in some cases to prevent a warrant from being issued or a charge from being filed. Depending on the details of the case, your lawyer may be able to speak directly to the prosecutor on your behalf. Everyone in the state of Washington has the right to legal counsel and sound legal advice. If your name is on an arrest warrant in King County or anywhere in the state, get that legal advice now.