Should I Turn Myself In? What Should I Do Before I Turn Myself In?

A commonly asked question of criminal defense attorneys is whether a person should turn himself or herself in on an outstanding warrant and what that person should do prior to submitting to authorities.

Depending on many factors, a person is generally more likely to receive a bond (and be out of custody while their attorney handles the legal matters) if the person voluntarily turns himself or herself in to police as soon as they discover an outstanding warrant.

One major consideration in whether individuals will receive a bond from a magistrate or judge upon turning themselves in is how long they have been a fugitive.

It is also important to keep in mind how inconvenient it is to be pulled over for a minor traffic violation and to have a police officer make both an arrest on an outstanding warrant and an expensive impound of a vehicle.

What should you do before you turn yourself in to the authorities?

You should consult with an attorney and may also want to contact a bail bondsman who can assist you in the bonding process should you be given a bond upon your arrest.

You will also be best served to make arrangements in case you do not receive a bond from a magistrate. In Norfolk, it often takes a few days for a retained attorney to be able to have a bond hearing scheduled on the court’s docket after an arraignment before a judge.

If you live out-of-state, you should keep in mind that if you are arrested in a state other than where the warrant is outstanding, it takes time to be transported and you may need to be housed in multiple jails before finally being arraigned. I once represented a college student who was arrested in Maryland on an outstanding warrant from Norfolk, Virginia. She had to spend several weeks in the Baltimore City Jail before being transported to Virginia to face the charge.

If you are in the military and have an outstanding warrant, you should contact your command to help facilitate turning yourself in to police.

You should remember that if you turn yourself in on a weekend and do not receive a bond, you will not see a judge until the next week day when the court is open. Holidays that fall on Mondays or Fridays also complicate this.

An outstanding warrant will not and cannot go away by ignoring it. A person cannot hire an attorney to handle the matter for them without first turning himself or herself in on the warrant. It is best to be in control of this type of situation and increase the likelihood of being admitted to bail by the judge prior to trial.

For more information on finding out if you or a loved one has an outstanding warrant, you can search the local lists published by each city. You can check the Norfolk Outstanding Warrants List, the Chesapeake Outstanding Warrants List, the Virginia Beach Outstanding Warrants List, or the Portsmouth Outstanding Warrants List here.