This article will examine those situations where a person has an outstanding criminal or DUI case, or an old warrant (for something like a probation violation) that needs to be cleared up and wants to take care of it. As a Michigan criminal and DUI lawyer, my office handles several matters like this every month. Over the course of the last 27-plus years, I’ve done this so many hundreds and hundreds of times and know the procedures so well that it’s easy to overlook the fact that someone trying to get a handle on it may want to know something about how it all works before deciding to call a lawyer.
At it’s most basic, an old or outstanding warrant is there because you didn’t show up. Even if you were abducted by aliens, the bottom line is that there is a pending court matter that has not been addressed. In the course of my years, I’ve seen every reason imaginable, from people who were going through a bad time “back then” and just blew it off, to folks who truly never knew about the case or warrant, and everything in-between. Whatever the history, there are only 2 situations that really matter now, and that’s whether you’re turning yourself in voluntarily or you’ve been picked up somehow. In other words, are you a voluntary surrender, or did you get get caught? Of course there are nuances to all of these things (someone who got picked up as a result of a traffic stop may have truly not had any clue he or she had an outstanding warrant, and someone who has let a matter hang out there for years may be motivated to take care of it only because he or she needs to do so for something like a new job), but in general, it’s almost always better to present yourself rather than have the warrant catch up with you.
Part of my job, at least in a voluntary surrender case, is to make arrangements with the court to handle the matter. Every court is different, at least to some extent. Sometimes, there’s nothing more to arrange beyond just showing up together. Many district courts, however, only handle these matters on certain days and/or at certain times. This seems strange, that a person who is “wanted” and is willing to come in to recall an outstanding warrant can really only do so on certain days, and/or at certain times, but that’s the reality. This is more important to someone who now lives out-of-state, or far away from where the case is pending, because one of the big goals here is to minimize the number of trips to court and to get this resolved as efficiently as possible. Of course, on of the biggest fears is that you’ll be thrown in jail, but I cannot recall a single instance of that ever happening to any of my clients when we’ve done this voluntarily. Normally, I will instruct the client to bring a certain amount of money for bond (just in case), but however that part of things plays out, both my client and I can plan to walk out the front door together, often with a new date to come back to court.
In that regard, it is just not possible, in some cases – even by arrangement – to walk into court and have the whole matter taken care of in one appearance. This makes sense if a person just skipped out on a new case, but even if a person simply quit showing up for probation, it’s often required that we first appear before the Judge to have the outstanding warrant recalled, and are then given a new date to return and actually address underlying matter, be it a probation violation or an unanswered charge of some kind. Believe me, it won’t be for lack of trying that any particular matter cannot be completely handled in one day. I regularly handle out-of-state client’s DUI charges all in one day, so if there is a way to consolidate everything, I’ll get it done.
Ultimately, though, you are paying a lawyer to handle all these details for you. From a practical point of view, you can probably get a lot of information about your situation just from a phone consultation. If you call my office, for example, it will be clear that we know what we’re doing, and that we know what we know, but we do not pretend to know what we don’t, either. To put this another way, although my staff can usually give a general idea of how things will be scheduled, the specifics are hammered out with the court once an attorney is officially “on” the case and files papers to that effect with the court. Whatever else, It should be pretty obvious when you call any lawyer’s officer that it has the requisite experience and confidence to do this right- or not.
As far as the case itself goes, it’s natural to think that a person should get some kind of “extra credit” for turning him or herself in. After all, you’re stepping up and taking responsibility. That will never be overlooked, but it’s not a free pass, either. At least in the courtrooms of the Metro-Detroit area, the various Judges fall roughly into 3 categories:
- Most will take into account a person’s initiative in coming forward and appreciate what a person has done in the meantime, like stay out of any further trouble, as well as any other positive advances he or she has made.
- Some will acknowledge a person’s ambition to (finally) take responsibility, but also point out that it’s unfair to “reward” a person for not showing up because doing so could encourage other to do the same, and
- A few are just glad enough to assess fines and costs and close the damn book on the matter once and for all.
You can probably guess that everyone hopes THEIR Judge is the third type, or if not, at least falls more into the first category. In that context, it becomes the lawyer’s job to know who is who, and to be as persuasive as possible with any Judge who fall into that second category. Make no mistake, this is not the time to hire some deadpan or bargain lawyer. Most Judges are not usually stuck within any one category, so as much as it’s important that your lawyer’s support staff be adept at arranging and scheduling things, it’s even more important that your lawyer is able to make the best case for you when you’re in the courtroom. We can get tangled up in all kinds of meaningless legal prattle, but the bottom line is that you need a break here, and that’s what you’re paying for. Or at least what you should be paying for.The last thing you need some clod trotting into court on your dime and barking out exactly those things that will only serve to test, if not outright exceed, the patience of YOUR Judge .
The grand takeaway here is that if you have an outstanding case or warrant for something like a probation violation, you not only need it “taken care of,” you need it done in a way that’s both efficient and produces the best outcome possible. Most lawyers will believe they can do this well, so it’s up to you, as the consumer, to ask direct questions to make sure that is the case. If you have an outstanding case or warrant in any court in Macomb, Oakland or Wayne County, I can help. As you do your homework, read the various articles, like this, other lawyers have written, and as you decide who to hire, check around. All of my consultations are confidential and conveniently done over the phone, right when you call. You can reach my office Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at (586) 465-1980. We’re here to help.