Default Warrant Removals

Understanding Default Warrants

Being charged with committing an offense can be frightening and overwhelming. Understandably, the fear of not knowing one’s fate can lead to procrastination in taking action. Time, however, is not on your side if you have received an order to make a court appearance. Even though you may have forgotten about your default warrant, do not believe that the state of Massachusetts has!

Not attending a court date related to a criminal case, even when the absence is unintentional, can have dire penalties for a defendant. In Massachusetts, if a person fails to show up in court after being charged with an offense, no matter how minor, a default warrant will be issued. A default warrant gives the police the power to arrest the defendant named in that default warrant. While the police may not actively search for a defendant with a default warrant as they might for a defendant who has been issued an arrest warrant, a routine traffic stop could lead to the unexpected arrest of an often surprised defendant.

Under Massachusetts law, a person must be notified within 30 days if a default warrant has been issued with his or her name. Included on the notice will be the charge for which the warrant is being issued, the court from which the warrant has been issued, and a description of how the person can get the warrant removed. It is important to know that notice is considered to be satisfied so long as it has been mailed the defendant’s last known address. This means that a court does not have to actually serve the defendant with notice, nor does it have to verify that notice was received. So long as notice was mailed, a defendant has, in the court’s view, been warned.

The Consequences of a Default Warrant

Every warrant issued in the state of Massachusetts is entered into the Warrant Management System, a computerized database that makes arrest and default warrant information available to courts, police departments, and any others needing documents stating the existence or non-existence of a criminal record. In other words, a default warrant is included on a defendant’s criminal record. Furthermore, the warrant information is given to law enforcement agencies across the country and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. Out-of-state residents who were issued a warrant in the state of Massachusetts are treated no differently.

In addition to an arrest on a default warrant, the defendant’s driver’s license could be suspended. The defendant will also have trouble when the time comes to renew a license. Likewise, if the defendant does not have a license and attempts to obtain one after receiving a default, he or she will be unable to. A default warrant creates a double whammy for a defendant – he or she can be arrested on the default warrant and then, to add insult to injury, be charged with driving on a suspended license as well.

Government benefits are also in jeopardy when a defendant fails to make a scheduled court appearance. There is no obligation to pay benefits to anyone who has a warrant for his or her arrest or for violations of probation or parole, regardless of whether the offense is a felony or misdemeanor. These terminated benefits include such benefits as Medicare and unemployment benefits.

A default warrant that is left unresolved for an extended period of time might be used by the prosecutor as a reason for requesting either 1) a higher bail, or 2) that the defendant be he held without bail. Unfortunately, a judge may agree that a defendant who failed to keep his or promise to appear in court the first time might be more likely to miss a subsequent court date, resulting in a harsher bail determination for that defendant.

Bottom line – the consequences of a default warrant can end up being extremely costly, affecting a defendant’s life in more ways than he or she may have imagined.

Removing a Default Warrant

Courts generally demand that a defendant personally appear before it to remove a default warrant. Sometimes, a defendant leaves the state and forgets about or is even unaware that a warrant was issued in Massachusetts. No matter the seriousness of the offense, however, a court can still legally require a defendant to come to court for a judicial proceeding. Understandably, for out-of-state defendants, this requirement can be both costly and inconvenient.

Regardless of the current residency of the defendant, however, there are costs that may be incurred with the removal of a default warrant. First, a fee may be assessed for removing the warrant. Currently, this fee is $50. An additional fee can also be assessed if the defendant was arrested on the warrant. Neither of these fees is refundable. Depending on the defendant’s reason for missing the court date, his or her attorney may be successful in getting the court to set aside at the very least the default removal fee. An important caveat though – if a defendant procrastinates on resolving his or her default warrant, the more likely he or she will have to pay these fees.

A defendant, neither in-state nor out-of-state, who missed a court date should NEVER just show up in court at a later date without legal representation to try to fix the situation. If a default warrant has already been issued, the defendant could be taken into custody immediately. Begin the process of taking care of a default warrant by consulting with a reputable and knowledgeable attorney with experience in default warrant removal. The criminal attorney will work tirelessly to achieve the best results for her clients, regardless of whether they are a Massachusetts resident or an out-of-state defendant with a warrant issued while in Massachusetts.

If a default warrant has been issued for you or a loved one, the quickness with which you respond will play a critical role in the success of its removal. Do not hesitate to seek legal help from a well-respected professional.