Thanks to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, you are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures by the United States government. Most people have an understanding of how this right impacts the police and their ability to search your home or vehicle. But it is also important to understand that this right prevents law enforcement from arresting you without cause. In most cases, federal authorities cannot arrest you without first obtaining a federal arrest warrant.
In some cases, you might learn of the existence of a warrant before you are arrested. In fact, there are circumstances where federal authorities will negotiate with you to surrender at a certain time and place. This is not always an option. Frequently, law enforcement will seek a warrant for your arrest for a federal crime and take you into custody at a time of their choosing.
No matter if you suspect there is a warrant for your arrest or you have already been taken into custody, your first phone call should be to experienced legal counsel. If you are facing federal charges in the Houston area, let Board Certified Criminal defense attorney Doug Murphy assist you throughout the process.
Understanding Federal Arrest Warrants
When a federal law enforcement agency believes you have violated federal law, they are entitled to seek a warrant for your arrest from a magistrate. Warrants to search your property or arrest you are only granted when certain conditions are met. The officers seeking a warrant must provide an affidavit laying out what crime they believe you have committed.
Once the warrant is issued, the law enforcement agency is empowered to take you into custody. Warrants must include specific information, including:
- The name of the defendant and their general description
- A description of the federal offense the defendant is facing
- A command from the court that the defendant is to be arrested and taken immediately before a judge
- The signature of the judge
State and federal warrants operate in a similar fashion. State courts can also issue warrants for an arrest. The major difference between these two processes is that federal warrants are issued for violation of federal law. On the other hand, state courts only issue arrest warrants based on a violation of state law.
In limited situations, it could be possible for your attorney to fight an arrest warrant. If your attorney can establish that the warrant was obtained through fraud or by error, the court might agree to quash the warrant. This is rare in federal court, however.
Determining Whether a Warrant for your Arrest Has Been Issued
Sometimes, you will not know of an arrest warrant until the moment law enforcement takes you into custody. That said, it is possible in some cases to learn of a warrant before it is executed. Warrants are often a matter of public record, meaning a court clerk or a check with the National Crime Information Center could inform you of a warrant's existence. Your best chance to act before a warrant is executed is to contact a Houston federal defense lawyer. Your attorney could confirm if you are facing a federal warrant and help you prepare for what comes next.
There are other ways you might learn of a warrant outside of these official channels. In many cases, law enforcement will come to your home or contact your family in an effort to arrest you. If this is the case, you might get a call from your family members informing you that federal authorities are looking for you. In some cases where you are not at home or work, federal officers might reach out to you directly over the phone in an attempt to arrest you. This will typically only occur for lower-level crimes where officers do not suspect you will run or hide.
Steps to Take Before a Federal Crimes Arrest in Texas
In situations where you learn of the existence of a federal warrant before you are arrested, you must avoid making your situation worse. While your instincts might tell you to go into hiding or make a break for it, it is vital that you comply with law enforcement. Any attempt to avoid arrest could result in additional charges against you.
The steps you take before your arrest could have a dramatic impact on how your case goes once you are in custody. If you are considered a flight risk, you can expect to face objections for anything from bail to surrendering your passport.
The most important step you can take before facing arrest is to contact a defense attorney with experience handling federal crimes. Your attorney could assist you in determining if there is a warrant out for your arrest. They could advise you of the steps you need to take prior to arrest without getting into additional legal jeopardy. They could also assist you in negotiating your surrender to federal authorities.
Surrendering to Federal Authorities in Texas
If there is no way around the federal warrant for your arrest, turning yourself in could have a wide range of benefits. First of all, turning yourself in allows you to appear before the U.S. Marshal's Office on your own accord. This could save you the trauma and embarrassment of facing a public arrest. In some cases, surrendering to federal authorities could also dramatically reduce the amount of time you are in custody before you are able to be freed on bail. Your chances of release go up when you surrender, just like they go down if you avoid arrest.
By negotiating your surrender, you could also find yourself in court sooner than you might otherwise. While this is not as pressing if you receive bail, the sooner you go before the judge for arraignment the better.
Your lawyer could help you negotiate your surrender by contacting the U.S. Marshal's office directly on your behalf. While their office is under no obligation to work with you, they frequently do so on low-level cases where the risk of flight is limited. A successful negotiation will result in a specific date and time for you to appear at the U.S. Marshal's office to surrender. This setup has the additional benefit of giving you some time to make arrangements for your business, family, or even your pets.
Keep in mind, law enforcement can still arrest you as long as there is an active warrant. If they negotiate an agreement to surrender with your attorney, they are typically less likely to aggressively pursue your arrest before the time you are scheduled to surrender. That said, you could still find yourself arrested prematurely if you cross paths with law enforcement. Should the police pull you over while driving, they can arrest you on the spot. They are under no obligation to let you go and allow you to surrender yourself later.
By surrendering, the entire process could come together quickly. Your attorney will be able to appear with you when you surrender, cutting short the time law enforcement would normally waste waiting for your attorney to arrive. By appearing with you as you surrender, they can also help ensure you do not volunteer any damaging statements while you are being taken into custody.
What to do After your Federal Crimes Arrest in Texas
The steps you take after your arrest depend entirely on how your arrest occurred. If you had the opportunity to contact a lawyer and arrange your surrender, you could be released on bail in short order. If you waited until you were arrested on the warrant, it will be important that you contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Once your criminal case has begun, it is crucial that you avoid speaking to anyone about your case other than your lawyer. Friends and family members will likely have a lot of questions, but volunteering any information about your case will only work against you.
If you are granted bail, your freedom will depend on your continued ability to stay out of trouble. It is vital that you meet any of the conditions of your arrest while you await trial. If you are ordered to avoid drugs or alcohol, the failure to do so could result in your incarceration awaiting trial.
It is important to stay calm. While your future could be at risk, panicking will only make things worse. By remaining calm and collected, you put yourself in a position to help your attorney. By working closely with your legal counsel, you could improve your chances of prevailing at trial.
How a Houston Federal Defense Attorney Could Help
Whether you suspect you are under federal investigation or have already been arrested, there is no time like the present when it comes to contact a defense attorney. Not all defense attorneys are the same, however. It is important that you seek out legal counsel with extensive experience in federal court.
Attorney Doug Murphy has made a successful career out of defending those accused of federal crimes. If you are facing arrest for a federal offense in Houston, reach out to the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. as soon as possible.