If you have been charged with assault, communicating threats, shoplifting, possession of drugs, DWI, or something even more serious then you likely have an Order for Arrest issued due to missing Court. In the rare case of finding out you have been charged with a crime and have never been served with the warrant it may be advisable to turn yourself in on your own terms rather than risk arrest at home or work.
What should I do if I missed Court in NC?
First thing you should do is determine whether you have an Order for Arrest. If you do have an OFA then you should assume the police will be looking for you at the address on your ticket and/or drivers’ license. If you can hire an attorney to strike the OFA and re-calendar your case that is usually the best resolution. This may be the only way to avoid the embarrassment of your mugshot on the internet.
When will I be arrested if I have an OFA?
It really depends on the County and crime. Sometimes it takes a few days before the Courthouse notifies law enforcement and other times notification is same day. When they actually send someone to your home or work depends on the availability of an officer and the priority they have assigned to your case.
How will the police find me if I missed Court?
The first place they usually look is the address on your ticket. The next place may be your last known address in the DMV database or other government records such as your workplace.
What if I was never served with the warrant?
If you somehow find out you have been charged with a crime without being served with the warrant then being booked and processed at the local jail may be unavoidable. Warrants can sometimes sit on the books for many years. This does not mean you can’t take steps to expedite the process and obtain a speedy release. Hiring a lawyer to arrange your surrender may result in a reduced or unsecured bond. A local attorney may also be able to best advise you as to the best time day and time to turn yourself in to facilitate your timely release.
Warrant search in NC
You can usually do an online warrant search in each county you feel you may have an outstanding charge. Be aware that just because you don't see your name online does not may an officer or detective is not holding a warrant so as to not tip you off they are looking for you.
What happens if I turn myself in?
If you turn yourself in, you will usually appear in front a magistrate after you have been fingerprinted and photographed. This process can sometimes take several hours. The magistrate will usually decide whether or not to set a bond unless you have been charged with a serious crime. (Magistrates generally don’t have authority to set a bond in a Domestic Violence case unless it has been more than 48 hours since your arrest and no District Court Judge is available)
When should I turn myself in?
This generally depends on what kind of bond you should expect based upon the severity of the charge/s. Hopefully the magistrate will set a bond you can afford otherwise you will have to wait to appear in front of District Court Judge. If you are charged with a crime for which you don’t expect a bond from a magistrate such as Domestic Violence then Friday is usually not a good time to be booked as that means you will spend the weekend in jail. Magistrates generally have a set of rather high bond guidelines based on specific crimes whereas a District Court Judge has more discretion in giving you a lower bond. If you expect you may have to wait to appear in front a District Court Judge at 9:00 am then turning yourself in at midnight after eating a good meal may be your best bet. (Jail food is to be avoided if possible) You want surrender yourself at a time to make sure there is plenty of time to be transported to appear in front of the Judge in the morning.
Where should I turn myself in?
You certainly want to talk to an attorney, but the answer is generally at the local jail in the County where you have been charged. The Union County Jail is located on Presson Road in Wingate, NC whereas Mecklenburg County has (1) Jail Central across from the Courthouse in uptown Charlotte and (2) Jail North on Spector Drive.
How long will I stay in jail?
The booking process can take anywhere from 2-6 hours depending on the backlog and available staff. If the magistrate sets an unsecured bond then the process will be expedited as no bond need be posted. If a secured bond is required then someone will need to post that bond before you are released.
What if I can’t afford my bond?
If the magistrate sets a bond you and your family can’t afford then you can ask for a bond reduction when you appear in front of a District Court Judge. Another option is to use a bail bondsman. They typically charge 10-15% of the required bond as their fee to gain your release. Another possible option is to use real estate as collateral for the bond. This is usually not advisable as missing Court may result in the loss of your home!
Should I use a bondsman?
Getting out of jail as quickly as possible is usually in your best interest. If you can post your own bail then then you won’t have to worry about having to pay a service fee to a bondsman. If you expect a high secured bond you should make arrangements with a bondsman before you turn yourself in.
Do I need a lawyer to strike an Order for Arrest in NC?
You can always represent yourself, but speaking with a criminal lawyer can give you a better understanding of the process and what to expect. An attorney may also be able to strike an Order for Arrest by simply talking to the District Attorney and Judge and explaining why you missed Court and that you are not a flight risk or danger to the community. Ideally this can be done without you having to attend Court. If you simply show up to Court yourself and ask the Judge to strike your OFA then you are at the mercy of the Court and may not walk out of the front door.