What to do about an out-of-statewarrant for Failure to Appear?

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What to do about an out-of-statewarrant for Failure to Appear?

During hurricane Charley (6 years ago) there was an oversight with my unemployment in FL. I thought it was resolved, was told by my attorney that my court appearance was waived, and even had my bond reimbursed by my bondsman. However, I was instead charged with Failure to Appear (“FTA”). I have since moved to SC and haven’t dealt with it. I can’t get a driver’s license now as mine has expired (FL) and am afraid I will be arrested if I go to renew here in SC. Can I resolve this without having to go to jail, or even to FL? I am not working and have medical bills, but need to resolve this.

Asked on January 16, 2011 under Criminal Law, South Carolina

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, due to the misinformation given to you, once you failed to appear (FTA) in court a bench warrant for your arrest was issued.  While officers may not track you down (especially if you are in another state), if you are stopped by the police for anything, even jaywalking, you will be arrested and taken into custody on the spot.  You  may or may not then be extradited back to FL. Even if you are not extradited (unlikely if you have been charged with fraud), you will run the risk of being arrested anytime that you may be get stopped by the police.  Additionally, an employment background check will turn this all up, so obtaining employment will be difficult, if not impossible.  And obviously, if you apply for a driver's license your warrant will show.

The longer this goes on the worse it will be for you. It will be far better for you to turn yourself in and appear voluntarily.  What you need to do now is to hire a FL attorney that practices in the court that issued the warrant.  This attorney can utilize their local contacts to negotiate to your best advantage.  Remember, you have to deal not only with the FTA but also the underlying charge.  Bottom line, you will need to go back to FL to handle this. 

If money is an issue, see if you qualify for representation by the Public Defender's office or Legal Aid.  Also, check if there is a law school nearby to where the arrest took place; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  Additionally, contact the local Bar Association in the county where the proceedings will be held; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances.


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