I Have A Maryland Warrant For My Arrest. What Should I Do?
There are not a lot of great options in this situation, but there are alternatives. The standard advice I give all questioners is to obey the warrant, contact law enforcement, and follow their instructions. If, however, a valid and provable reason exists for a failure to appear, there may be alternatives.
A seasoned Maryland defense attorney may successfully petition the court to lift the warrant.
The most common scenario in which an individual will become the subject of bench arrest warrant is one in which they had failed to appear for a court date. There are other situations in which an arrest warrant may be issued. An example would be a warrant for the arrest of a material witness or a witness otherwise placed under subpoena for a trial, who fails to appear. The other common scenario- and perhaps the most common scenario- is one in which criminal charges have been filed and, a reviewing a judicial officer has determined that an arrest warrant is an appropriate measure to bring the target before the court. In this situation, the target is unlikely to know, or will not know, that the warrant has been issued until they are arrested under its authority. [It should be noted that since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports that warrant information pertaining to this latter scenario has been found on Maryland Judiciary Case Search or other publicly available databases].
On the other hand, where a defendant has failed to appear for a duly noticed court appearance, typically the information regarding the existence of a warrant is available on Maryland’s Judiciary Case Search. I’ve spoken to many individuals who find they are the subject of an arrest warrant through a perusal of this state database.
Where one has learned of their arrest warrant there are two options:
Turn yourself in and either post bail or wait to be taken before a reviewing judge, or, asking the court to quash or recall the warrant.
My initial advice must be that insofar as there is an outstanding order of the court demanding that you be taken into custody, surrendering to the authorities is the proper course. Having said that, I've spoken to countless individuals over the years who have valid reasons for their failure to appear. If notice of the court appearance was provided via mail, it is not unusual to see a claim that they did not receive that notice. While it is clear that anyone on pretrial release must advise the court of any address changes, it is not uncommon in the age of COVID to find that the US mail is not delivered in a timely fashion, or at all. In this situation, it is not that a warrant should not have issued, but, rather that a reviewing judge would excuse the failure were the full facts known. Since spending a day or two in jail is typically unpalatable to most individuals, I will focus on the second option. An experienced criminal defense attorney can be invaluable in getting a court to set aside a warrant for his or her client’s arrest. This is not hidden advertisement for you to hire an attorney. This is not to say that one cannot get a warrant recalled without a lawyer, but rather that your chances are better. Indeed, there is a very pragmatic reason for this phenomena.
In our experience, many judges will not recall a warrant unless the target has retained counsel who makes a representation to the court that the target will appear for all future court proceedings.
Moreover, someone who has hired counsel presents an appearance of one taking the matter seriously, and is evidence of an intent to see the matter to conclusion. While I can certainly envision scenarios in which a reviewing judge may recall, quash or set aside an arrest warrant for an individual not represented by counsel, those are relatively rare events, in my experience. It is my standard advice that anyone seeking to recall a warrant for their arrest must employ an experienced criminal defense lawyer to assist them in that process.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 9/17/21.