Someone who receives a felony warrant may wonder if the warrant will ever go away. It’s true that some types of warrants expire over time or can get paid off. This is not the case with a felony warrant. A felony warrant is permanent. It remains on record until the suspect appears in court.
The only way a felony warrant can be removed is if the suspect is found not guilty. If the suspect is guilty, they receive a felony conviction. A felony conviction can only be removed in certain cases through the process of expungement.
What Is a Felony Warrant?
A warrant is a legal document given out by a judge. It allows the police to arrest, detain, and conduct a criminal investigation of a suspect. Someone is considered a suspect when it is probable that they have committed a crime. Crimes are generally divided into the two categories of felony and misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor warrant is the less serious of the two categories. Minor traffic violations, minor drug offenses, and petty theft are examples of misdemeanors. Not all misdemeanor warrants go to trial. If the suspect is guilty, consequences involve fines or minimal time served in a county jail. Some misdemeanor warrants can expire depending on the state laws and type of crime.
Felony warrants are for crimes that are the most serious or violent. Murder, sexual assault, and grand theft are all examples of felonies. Felony suspects must appear in court. If the suspect is guilty, consequences involve time served in a state or federal prison. It is usually a longer sentence than less serious crimes. They may also owe hefty fines. There are likely to be more consequences upon returning to society. This might include limitations on career and educational options. They are usually prohibited from possessing firearms. Also, felons lose the right to vote in some states.
A felony warrant may include the following details:
Name of the suspect, if known
Description of crime
Because of the severity of the crimes associated with a felony warrant, they are permanent. The warrant does not expire and will stay on record until the suspect appears in court.
Will a Felony Warrant Show Up on a Background Check?
Not all arrest warrants will show on a background check. Felony warrants relate to the most severe crimes. Because of this they may show up on a background check. Different states have different laws about who can see criminal warrants. Law enforcement, employers, landlords, or others may see the warrant in public records.
What Rights Are Lost When a Warrant Is Out?
If a felony warrant is out, the suspect in question may lose some rights as listed below.
Generally, someone with an arrest warrant will not be able to fly on an airline. Airport security is especially strict for international flights.
Someone with an arrest warrant may lose their driver’s license. This is because the DMV may receive a notification when an arrest warrant goes out. In this case the DMV may suspend the license.
Someone with an arrest warrant may lose access to government resources such as welfare or food stamps.
How to Deal with a Felony Warrant
If a felony warrant is issued, the best course of action a suspect can take is to arrange to meet with the police with the guidance of a lawyer.
A suspect should avoid the urge to run from the police. Trying to avoid the arrest will only make the situation worse. Since the warrant does not expire, it will remain on public records. This means employers, insurance companies, airports, and others may be able to see the warrant. Also, avoiding the arrest will increase the severity of charges and possible consequences. In some states resisting arrest may result in a misdemeanor or felony.
The following steps are likely to occur when dealing with a felony warrant.
Step 1: Hire an attorney
It is best to hire an attorney. An attorney can offer guidance through the legal process.
Step 2: Go to the police
The next step is to go to the police with a lawyer. The lawyer can usually speak on the suspect’s behalf to make sure the law enforcement honors their rights.
Step 3: Arrest and custody
Law enforcement will likely arrest a suspect with a felony warrant. They will likely enter custody while waiting for the first court hearing.
Step 4: Booking
During booking, a suspect answers a series of basic questions. This might include information about their address, birthdate, and other details. They are then fingerprinted and photographed.
Step 5: First court hearing
During the first court hearing, the judge will explain possible charges and penalties.
Step 6: Plea options
The suspect’s lawyer will explain plea options. The plea is a suspect’s response to charges. Plea options include pleading guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest).
Step 7: Trial
At this point the suspect will go to trial. During the trial the court determines whether the suspect is guilty.
Step 8: Sentencing hearing
If the suspect is guilty, the judge will assign a sentence during the sentence hearing.
Getting a Felony Record Expunged
If a suspect convicted and given a sentence, they will have a felony on their record. Because a felony is a serious crime, felony records are permanent. Someone with a felony record may wonder if they can get their felony expunged. Expungement involves destroying a criminal record so a felony conviction is not available to public. This allows any background checks to show up clean.
Whether a record is eligible for expungement depends on the type of the conviction. Other factors include individual state laws and how long ago the conviction happened. Generally, expungement is for minor offenses. Some states are more lenient and will consider expunging some felonies. Chances for expungement are higher if the felony is not a violent crime. Violent crimes involve force or the threat of force on another person. Examples of violent offenses include assault, murder, rape, or robbery.
There are several steps that a felon can take to pursue expungement.
Step 1: Research state laws
The Restoration of Rights Project has compiled a list of individual state laws for expungement. Research the laws in your state to find out whether you have a record that qualifies for expungement.
Step 2: Hire a lawyer
Consider hiring a lawyer to offer guidance through the process. It’s best to hire someone with experience in expungement. Most states only allow one petition for expungement, and a felon cannot re-file if denied. This is why the help of a lawyer who is familiar with the court rules and the expungement process is so important.
An attorney fee for expungement varies. It will depend on time investment and the type of conviction. Minor misdemeanors usually cost $500 to $750. Serious misdemeanors may range from $500 to $1000. The expungement process for misdemeanors generally take about six months. It may or may not need a hearing. An attorney fee for felonies can cost $1000 to $5000. Felony expungements may take up to a year to process.
If hiring an attorney is not possible, there are other options. The courthouse’s pro-se desk will help in filling out forms. Another possibility is hiring a service to help create a petition. Keep in mind these resources are not able to provide the legal guidance a lawyer can.
Step 3: Contact the court
The first step is to send a petition to court asking for the record to be cleared. The court will likely want to hold a hearing to determine whether to grant the request. Again, it can be helpful to have a lawyer present. A lawyer will be able to attest to the positive changes you have made. They can also advocate for going forward with sealing your record.
Of all the warrants that can be issued, a felony warrant is the most serious. A felony warrant is permanent because of the severity of felony crimes. A felony warrant gives law enforcement the right to arrest and investigate a suspect. It also is likely to remove some rights from the suspect.
A felony warrant will remain on record until the suspect goes to court. It will not expire. The only way a felony warrant can be taken off record is if the suspect is found not guilty after the trial. It’s important not to avoid the police if you have a felony warrant. This could result in further charges and penalties. It may also show up in background checks run by employers, airports, and other organizations.
The best course of action when given a warrant is to hire a lawyer and talk to the police. A lawyer can ensure the suspect’s rights during the court process. They can help guide a suspect through their options. If the suspect is guilty, they may want to get their record expunged. Expungement is not always available for felony convictions. Research individual state laws to find out whether a crime may qualify for expungement.