When you are arrested for DUI, your case could go in a few different directions. You may be held in custody and only released when your bail amount is posted. Bail is a kind of collateral, used to ensure that you will make your court appearance. If you are injured in an accident, you may be released on a copy of your charges to appear at a later date to check in and bond out. This is contingent on your Promise to Appear in court for your arraignment (the first court hearing, in which you are read your charges and may enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest - with the advice of your attorney.)
Your arraignment is scheduled after you are released. If you miss this court date, no matter the reason, it is extremely likely that a bench warrant was issued for your arrest because of your failure to appear (FTA). Do not misconstrue the function of a warrant for your arrest. It does not mean the police will begin an exhaustive search to find you or show up at your door. On the contrary, if this were practiced on a wide scale, it would be costly to the city and laborious to the police department. Rather than chase you down, authorities opt to wait until your next possible run-in with law enforcement, such as the next time you're pulled over for a traffic infraction. Every time someone is pulled over, the officer will run their information to make sure there are no outstanding warrants for their arrest. This is generally how people with FTA warrants are arrested. It is best not to wait until this happens, but to be proactive in handling your charge. In addition to a bench warrant, your driver's license may also have been suspended.
How To Get Rid of a Bench Warrant
It is called a ‘bench' warrant because it was issued by the judge on the bench when you failed to appear. Fulton County Court's website explicitly states the suggested ‘next steps' if you have missed a court date.
"The judge assigned to your case may have issued a warrant for your arrest and/or suspended your driver's license if you were cited for a traffic offense. To reset your case, appear in person at our office with a photo ID. The case will then be forwarded to your judge's case manager who will reschedule your case for a court date and contact you with further information."
It is recommended that you reach out to a DUI attorney prior to appearing in court with your photo ID. They can help guide you through the warrant process and give knowledgeable advice specific to your case. If you opt to go to court without first speaking to an attorney, it is critical that you retain one after your court date is reset. Your DUI attorney will represent you and be present on your court date. Having a skilled DUI attorney is an enormous credit to you and your case. They are not only familiar with the court procedures of Fulton County, but also with the judges and clerks that preside over it. Skilled Fulton County DUI lawyer Richard Lawson may be able to negotiate a better deal with the courts than you would be able to, were you going at it alone. In court, it is advised that you dress well, address the judge as your honor, and comport yourself with respect and contrition. Be sure to be on time. These simple steps could go a long way.
If It's Been A Long Time, Was My Case Dropped? What If I Moved?
In short, no. Just because you have not heard anything from the court does not mean your case was dropped or the statute of limitations on your case ran out. Your charge is very much alive and well, as is the warrant that was likely issued for your arrest. If you have not interacted with law enforcement, whether by force or by choice, then you will not have heard anything. A charge does not simply subside. It must be dealt with. If you moved states or counties, you may still need to return to the state or county in which you were charged and follow the necessary steps of that area's court. If you are arrested in your current state, there is a possibility that you will be extradited to the state that has charged you. This is not as intimidating as it may sound - it is all a matter of standard procedure. The sooner you take control, hire an attorney and reach out to the court, the sooner you can put the charge to bed and carry on with your life. Do not hesitate to contact Fulton County DUI Attorney Richard Lawson as soon as possible for a free consultation.