Sometimes, it comes as a complete surprise…
A forgotten traffic ticket or incident you thought was over suddenly comes back to haunt you. Did you know that in Louisiana, any magistrate or judge who has enough probable cause to believe an offense was committed may issue a warrant? That “probable cause” can sometimes be defined as missing a court date.
The police can submit a sworn statement or complaint against someone accused of a crime. The judge then issues an arrest warrant, but the person accused may get no notice and have no idea a warrant was issued or requested. If you forget to show up for court, even for a traffic ticket, the judge will automatically issue an arrest warrant.
It often happens that the first time someone knows the police are looking for him is when he is told about the warrant at a traffic stop or a later “brush” with the law. The warrant is directed to all police officers in the state. Other times, the person is arrested in what is called a “warrant sweep.” The goal of this police action is to pick up a number of people with outstanding warrants.
The Fugitive Warrant Department of the State Law Enforcement Center also enters probation and parole violators by registering them in the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) central database. This unit will also detain violators in other states and will return them to Louisiana for hearings and processing. Between 2007 and 2008, this unit was able to return to Louisiana 1,037 people arrested in other states.
If you suspect there is a warrant out for your arrest, you can contact local law enforcement authorities to find out, but they will usually make you come in. If they find a warrant, they will hold you in custody. The best advice is to speak with an attorney immediately to discuss your rights and legal responsibility. We are often able to get bonds set in advance of an arrest or the person turning himself in to police. This can make the difference between a minor inconvenience with a couple of hours of paperwork and being held in jail for days–sometimes weeks. We have even been able to resolve some cases without the person ever coming back to Louisiana to face formal proceedings.