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January 31, 2011

Too Many Arrest Warrants in South Florida

Thousands of arrest warrants are open and pending and law enforcement does not even have close to the resources necessary to effectuate the arrests. Arrest warrants generally come in two forms. The first type of warrant is presented to a judge by law enforcement officers. Police officers are also required to submit an affidavit in support of the warrant to the judge. The judge will determine if probable cause exists based on the facts alleged in the affidavit. The other type of arrest is an alias capias or bench warrant. The court will issue this type of warrant if a defendant is late for court or fails to appear for a court hearing. Miami criminal attorneys deal with both types of warrants on fairly routine basis.

When an arrest warrant is signed by a judge, each charge carries a particular bond amount, unless of course the charge is capital or punishable up to life in prison, such as in cases involving sexual battery, armed drug trafficking, homicides or other violent crimes. If a person is arrested on a bondable offense, a bond can be posted without having to appear at a bond hearing. If the defendant is arrested for a non-bondable offense, the only way to obtain a bond is by agreement by the prosecution or at an Arthur Hearing, where a judge can issue a bond. When a judge issues a bench warrant in county court, a dollar amount will attach allowing for a bond to be posted. If a judge in circuit court issues a capias, the defendant will not receive a bond unless he appears before the court that issued the capias. As one can see, there are various types of warrants and corresponding bonds. Anyone picked up on a warrant should speak to a lawyer familiar with the process in order to get out of custody as soon as possible.

South Florida police agencies are swamped with warrants. Miami-Dade County has in excess of 300,000 outstanding warrants, Broward County has 219,000 and Palm Beach County has 58,000. Although it seems like a lot of warrants, the majority of the cases involve misdemeanors, and probation violations. In the State of Florida there in excess of 100,000 outstanding felony warrants involving crimes such as sex offenses, assault and battery charges and homicide cases. Law enforcement officials admit that they do not have the manpower to possibly pick up all of the individuals with outstanding warrants. Just because law enforcement does not have the resources to serve all the warrants, that does not mean that a person with a warrant should remain on the run. Contact a criminal defense lawyer in the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued and he/or she should be able to remove the warrant from the system and resolve the criminal matter. Not addressing the problem could easily end someone in custody for being stopped for a traffic infraction.

South Florida is not unique when it comes to outstanding warrants. There are approximately 1.9 million warrants open across the United States. Just because a person is outside the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued, they still may be at risk of arrest and extradition to the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued. For example, a New York resident may have been vacationing on Miami Beach and received a ticket for lets say driving under the influence (DUI). Failing to appear in court will cause the judge to issue a warrant. Ten years later, the New York resident may get pulled over for speeding. The computer in the officers car may show an open warrant. The person will be arrested and transported to Florida to answer the DUI charge. Others are arrested coming though ports after returning from cruises or in airports. In any event, outstanding warrants should be addressed to avoid serious consequences in the future.

Huge Backlog of Arrest Warrants Challenges South Florida Police Agencies, Sun-Sentinal.com, January 29, 2011.