5 Things to Avoid If You Have an Outstanding Arrest Warrant

things you can't do if you have a warrant

If you’re living with an outstanding arrest warrant, you’re essentially wearing invisible handcuffs that can snap shut at any moment. Your every move could bring you face-to-face with law enforcement, turning even simple activities like driving or flying into high-stakes risks.

Not only does a warrant restrict your freedom, but it also looms like a dark cloud over your life, ready to rain down severe legal consequences. In this article, our defense team in Cleveland will unpack the various limitations an arrest warrant imposes on your life and why consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney is your best first step toward regaining your freedom.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Before Taking Any Action

If you learn that a warrant is out for your arrest, your first call should be to an experienced criminal lawyer, not the police. Never turn yourself in without consulting a lawyer.

Given your specific circumstances, a criminal defense lawyer can advise you on the best course of action. This includes whether to turn yourself in or wait for police to arrest you. They may even be able to negotiate with prosecutors to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.

Things You Can’t Do If You Have A Warrant

1. You Can’t Travel Freely

An active warrant severely limits your ability to travel freely, especially outside your immediate local area or state. Law enforcement agencies at all levels are interconnected through sophisticated databases that allow officers to easily check for outstanding warrants when they run your ID during routine traffic stops, airport security checks, border crossings, etc. Trying to travel domestically or internationally with a valid warrant in your name is an incredibly risky endeavor that will likely lead to arrest and detention by police.

2. You Can’t Legally Drive

In most states, an active arrest warrant also means the Department of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver’s license until you clear the matter with the court. Driving with a suspended license can lead to criminal charges and compound your legal troubles. For example, getting pulled over for a minor traffic infraction like speeding or an expired registration can quickly escalate to an arrest if the officer discovers your license was suspended because of an outstanding warrant.

In most states, you cannot legally renew or apply for a driver’s license if you have an unresolved warrant. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will reject any application until you properly take care of the warrant by appearing in court. If you are arrested on the warrant, the suspension may continue for some time after as an administrative action, requiring you to go through a license reinstatement process.

3. You Can’t Enter Federal Property

Any federal government property, including courthouses, military bases, national parks, or office buildings, will have security personnel who routinely check all visitors against law enforcement databases for outstanding warrants. Trying to enter any such property with an active warrant in your name will immediately alert the authorities and likely lead to your arrest and detention.

In particular, attempting to go through airport security checkpoints will also trigger a warrant check and prevent you from passing further into the terminal or boarding a flight. The TSA and other agencies closely monitor federal watchlists and databases to flag wanted persons. Many other federal sites have similar security protocols that detect a warrant when you present ID for entry, including IRS offices, Social Security buildings, VA hospitals, and more.

4. You Can’t Ignore the Warrant

You cannot pretend there is no warrant out for you or attempt to flee from the warrant to avoid arrest. Warrants do not expire and will not go away in time. Actively avoiding the warrant through relocation or other means will only worsen the charges and penalties you may face when law enforcement eventually locates and takes you into custody.

Judges issue arrest warrants precisely because you have failed to appear in court to address pending charges. The open warrant authorizes police to apprehend and detain you anywhere and time until you are brought to court. Hiding from the warrant greatly increases your perceived flight risk and makes it much more likely you will be detained without bond after arrest.

5. You Can’t Rely on Past Checks

If you have been cleared in background checks or traffic stops in the past, it does not mean the arrest warrant is no longer active or has been dismissed by the court. Warrants remain open and actionable until you properly appear before a judge and resolve the underlying matter.

Just because you were pulled over and subsequently released at a prior date does not invalidate the existing warrant from earlier failure to appear. Old employer background checks and the like also go stale quickly – the warrant remains active until addressed properly in court. Being arrested and released after a warrant check does not close the case. You must work with a defense attorney to proactively address the open warrant to finally clear your record.

What Should I Do if There is a Warrant for My Arrest in Another State or Country?

If you find out there is a warrant for your arrest in another state or country, contact a criminal defense attorney immediately for advice. Do not try to flee or avoid the warrant, as this will only make things worse trying to flee. A lawyer can help negotiate your surrender and represent you.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help if I Have a Bench Warrant?

If you have an outstanding bench warrant, a criminal defense lawyer can help in several ways. They can find out information about the warrant, negotiate your surrender to authorities, make arrangements to surrender, and represent you at your court hearing. A lawyer may also be able to convince the judge to recall the warrant or lower your bond.

Take Control: Your Next Steps for Resolving a Warrant

An outstanding arrest warrant is more than just a legal document—it’s a disruption that can turn your life upside-down, affecting your ability to travel, work, and even drive. Ignoring it isn’t an option; proactive steps must be taken to resolve it legally and regain your freedom.

If you find yourself in this daunting situation, know that you don’t have to face it alone. At Botnick Law Firm in Cleveland, we help people resolve outstanding warrants, providing advice and representation when you need it most. Don’t gamble with your future; contact us today.

Author Bio

Botnick Law Firm

Robert Botnick is CEO and Managing Partner of Botnick Law Firm, a criminal defense law firm in Cleveland, OH. With more than 19 years of experience in criminal defense, he has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, misdemeanors, felonies, domestic violence, and other criminal charges.

Robert received his Juris Doctor from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University and is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including the Best DUI Lawyers in Cleveland award by

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