The First question you must ask yourself is whether the warrant is a probation bench warrant or a Pretrial bench warrant. A Probation bench warrant means the Judge has sentenced you and you were on probation to the court and then failed to show for your show cause hearing. A show cause hearing is a hearing that was set because the probation officer alleges that you violated a condition of probation. A pretrial bench warrant means you failed to appear for arraignment, status hearing, trial or sentencing hearing. If a pretrial bench warrant was issued you failed to appear after you signed notice to appear.
Warrants are now listed on D.C. Superior Court's website at http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/warrants.jsf
Pretrial bench warrant
First and foremost try and contact your lawyer. If you are unable to contact lawyer but still want to resolve the warrant peacefully. You should report to pretrial services at D.C. Superior Court room C301. Once there you will ask to speak with someone from the failure to appear unit. Do not make any statements to the pretrial services officer without lawyer. When the pretrial services officer asks you why you didn't appear your response should be "Before I respond I would like to speak to a lawyer." The reason is that anything you say to the pretrial services officer could be used against in a separate charge called a bail reform act violation. A bail reform act violation can carry up to 180 days in jail if you failed to appear for a misdemeanor or 5 years in jail if you failed to appear for a felony or for sentencing. After that the pretrial services officer will escort you to the Judge that issued the warrant. They will contact your lawyer or appoint a new lawyer if you were not assigned or retained a lawyer.
Probation Show cause warrant
Probation bench warrant is a little more difficult because probation department does not have an office in Superior Court unlike Pretrial services. A lawyer can be very helpful in showing your side of why the probation officer was incorrect. Contact your lawyer that you either retained or were appointed before you go to court. If you do not have money to retain a lawyer, or not able to contact your appointed lawyer, go to the Public Defender Service at 633 Indiana Avenue, 2nd floor and they will make the arrangements for finding your lawyer or providing a lawyer.
Always remember its better to have your lawyer make representations to the Court than you.
Failure to Appear on DC court's website: http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/warrants.jsf
Mark Rollins is a criminal defense attorney in the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland.
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