Warrants happen. No one plans on getting a warrant, but sometimes life gets in the way of fulfilling your responsibility to the Court system. In Teton County, you can check if you have an active warrant by going to the jail website. Here’s the link. At a fundamental level, warrants happen when a court orders you to do something and you fail to do it. Warrants can happen either before a case is resolved (pre-adjudication) or after a case is resolved (post-adjudication).
Example of A pre-adjudication warrant.Imagine you were arrested and now are out on bond. In Teton County, you are a subject to a Release Order. A Release Order is a Court order that sets the terms of your release. In a DUI, our local judges require certain defendants to do a daily morning breath test. Let’s say you fail to do the morning test, or blow hot. The prosecutor can file a Petition to Show Cause and the judge will either set a hearing or issue a warrant for your arrest.
Example of a post-adjudication warrant.Imagine you pled guilty to a misdemeanor. You were required to pay fines and court costs of $740, payable at $100/month until paid in full. A $100 payment got lost and you didn’t pay in full. The prosecutor can file a Petition to Revoke Probation and the judge sets a hearing. Because you moved and have a new mailing address, you don’t get notice of the hearing and fail to show up. The judge issues a warrant over your failure to pay $100. In Teton County, post-adjudication warrants are common for folks that are only here for a season or two. Let’s say you worked in Jackson Hole for a ski season 7 years ago. You get a DUI and make some progress toward getting everything done. But you fail to take care of a fine or a class. You get a warrant. You go back home to Connecticut. You can go years without this warrant affecting your life.
How is a warrant issued?The Court can issue a warrant on the spot when someone fails to appear at a Court hearing. The prosecutor can also file a Petition to Show Cause or a Petition to Revoke Probation. For example, if you fail to fulfill a requirement, you frequently get one chance to explain yourself. If you fail to submit proof of completing alcohol treatment, the prosecutor will often file a Petition to set a hearing on why you failed to submit proof of treatment. The Court will set a hearing and send a notice to the mailing address on file. If you don’t appear at that hearing, you get a warrant.
Will my attorney know if I have a TEton county warrant?Maybe not. In a pre-adjudication scenario, if you have an attorney, he will be trying to contact you and deal with the warrant. In a post-adjudication scenario, your attorney is probably out of the picture. Once you’re sentenced, most attorneys are done. After that, the Court only notifies you of a Petition to Show Cause.
What about a cash warrant? Or a no-bond warrant?Sometimes the warrants have a monetary value. Let’s say there is a warrant for $1,000 for your arrest. In that scenario, if you go to the jail and post $1,000, you can get the warrant quashed and the Court will set a hearing. Talk to an attorney to do this right, otherwise, you’ll spend the night in jail. For a no-bond warrant, you’re going to be held until the judge sees you.
Am I going to be arrested on my warrant?It depends. If the warrant is for a felony, you are likely to be arrested at some point and brought to Court. This is true even if you are out of state. If the warrant is for a misdemeanor, read on. In the pre-adjudication scenario, if you’re in Teton County, and you fail to show up for a breath test, for example, you may get a warrant. Then the Sheriff may get you and you may do a couple days in jail (or more) while it’s sorted out. But if you’re not in Teton County, the Sheriff probably won’t get you for a misdemeanor. As a practical matter, once you leave the State, it’s less likely that the local Sheriff will come get you since they have to go through a special process to enforce a warrant across state lines. However, I know of situations in other counties where deputy drove 6 hours to pick up someone on a warrant. I believe that the Town of Jackson once attempted to extradite someone from California on a warrant. Because the facts matter, it’s hard to give general advice on the Internet. You are more likely to be arrested on a warrant and held in jail where the case is pre-adjudication. In a pre-adjudication case, the prosecutor hasn’t proved his case against you. As time passes, memories fade and witnesses leave the area. Over time, it may be impossible for the prosecutor to prove his case. To combat that, the prosecutor may try to have you held while the case is pending. What about post-adjudication? Consider the example above, where you fail to pay fines and the Court issues a warrant. In that situation, time has passed. It’s unlikely the Sheriff is actively looking for you over a failure to pay fines. You are less likely to be arrested. From the prosecutor’s point of view, they have obtained a conviction. Your obligations under the judgment and sentence were fixed. In general, it’s less important to the prosecutor to hold you in jail on a warrant after you have been convicted, especially when your obligations are relatively minor (i.e. pay a fine; submit proof of treatment). In this scenario, your attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to agree to quash the warrant and give you time take care of the obligation.
How else can a warrant affect me?
- Speeding ticket. If you’re pulled over in Wyoming for speeding, you may get arrested on the spot and brought to jail. If you’re not in Wyoming, that’s unlikely on a misdemeanor warrant.
- Employment. If you have a job where the employer conducts a background check, this can show up and affect your employment.
- State and occupational licenses. Imagine you apply to a state or local government for a license. It could be a license to have a hair salon—something completely unrelated to criminal law. But as part of that application, the State runs a background check and finds the warrant. I’ve been contacted by people who were denied licenses based on outstanding warrants.
- Driver’s licenses. In other states, having a warrant for a traffic offense can prevent you from renewing a driver’s license. If you’re in Wyoming, I’d contact WYDOT about your situation. Failing to pay traffic tickets can cause a license suspension. Often a failure to pay traffic tickets goes with a failure to deal with a traffic charge. This can get technical and is tough to explain over the Internet. Your situation can vary. But if you live in Wyoming and have a Wyoming warrant, you may be able to renew. I make no promises. It’s something to think about.
- Conceal and carry license. In Wyoming, there is a background check involved in the application for a license. The County Sheriff can refuse to issue one for good cause. I doubt someone with an active warrant would get approved, but I haven’t dealt with the specific situation.
- Firearm transactions. When you fill out ATF Form 4473, it asks if you are fugitive from justice. I believe it would be difficult for a person with an active warrant to be approved. I am unaware whether the warrant would show up when a gun store owner did a background check, but I certainly wouldn’t lie to the ATF on any form.
- Subsequent criminal cases. If you get a second criminal charge while you have a warrant on your first charge, you’re going to have several problems. For one, you may not get out of jail at all. When setting bond, the judge may determine that you’re a flight risk since you failed to appear before or obey previous Court orders. The Court or prosecutor could also require you to take care of the warrant as a condition of resolving your new case.
- Divorce cases. It’s possible that a warrant can also affect you in a divorce. Let’s say you’re in the middle of a divorce. If your spouse knows you have a warrant, or their attorney runs a background check on you, they’ll use the warrant against you when it comes to custody determinations.
- Other civil cases. Imagine you’re injured in a car accident. You’re negotiating with an insurance company. Theoretically, they could attack your character with the argument that you’re a criminal who flouts the law. If you got a warrant, you are lying about the car accident too. That’s a stretch, but it’s not uncommon for an opponent in a high-stakes situation to conduct a background check on you.
- Federal benefits. I believe it’s difficult to get federally subsidized housing with an active warrant. No doubt there are other federal benefits that are impacted by this. I don’t know.
- Dog the Bounty Hunter? Nah. I haven’t seen bail bondsman go to significant lengths to find people who fail to show up, and I rarely see a court order someone to forfeit their bond. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. That’s partly because I do a good job taking care of my clients and making sure they know what they need to do. But generally, absent a high bail or unusual circumstances, I don’t see bail bondsman actively involved detaining people. You could be the first. If you’re a felon, it’s much more likely.