Do you have an active felony or misdemeanor arrest warrant in Las Vegas? Do you suspect that you might have an arrest warrant somewhere in Clark County, Nevada? Do you have reason to believe that you are the suspect in a criminal investigation by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department or other local law enforcement agency? Is a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detective currently attempting to contact and interview you about some alleged crime? Have you already sat down with police detectives and given a voluntary statement regarding some alleged criminal charge? Has someone you care about been taken into custody pursuant to an arrest warrant? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should act quickly to retain a criminal defense attorney to protect your rights or the rights of your loved ones. Read below to learn about the arrest warrant process and how a criminal defense lawyer like me can help you to resolve your arrest warrant as quickly and painlessly as possible. Or, if you don't have the patience to read through this text and need answers right now, call or text me this instant and we will discuss your case.
Simply put, an arrest warrant allows the police to arrest a person suspected of committing a crime, and take that person to jail to await arraignment in criminal court. According to NRS 171.104, an "arrest" is defined as "the taking of a person into custody, in a case and in the manner authorized by law."
Usually, in Las Vegas, an arrest warrant originates with a police detective investigating some supposed felony crime and submitting his written reports to the Clerk County District Attorney, who then decides whether to file criminal charges. Assuming the District Attorney decides to file charges—and they almost always do—the judge will issue a felony arrest warrant. Police can then legally come and find you where you live or work, arrest you, and take you to Clark County Detention Center for booking and to await hearing in Las Vegas Justice Court several days later.
Technically speaking, according to NRS 171.108, an arrest warrant is a written order in the name of the State of Nevada, which is (1) signed by the judge (magistrate), (2) names the defendant by his true name or some alias, (3) states the date and county in which the arrest warrant was issued, (4) describes the alleged offense charged, and (5) commands that the defendant must be arrested and brought before the court.
The section above describes generally what an arrest warrant is. Read on to learn specifically how an arrest warrant is issued by the court. If you don't care about the legal mechanics of how an arrest warrant is issued, feel free to skip this section.
Pursuant to NRS 171.106, an arrest warrant can be issued by a judge when "probable cause" is shown. "Probable cause" is some vague measure of proof that (1) a crime was committed and (2) that some particular person "probably" committed that crime. "Probably" means more likely than not. So technically speaking, if the judge finds that there is "probable cause" in your case, he has made a determination that there is a greater than 50% chance you committed a crime. Of course, this determination that probable cause exists is made based upon police reports and usually little else.
Arrest warrants can be issued based on a showing of probable cause by way of three distinct legal documents: complaint, citation, or affidavit.
Complaint. According to NRS 171.102, a criminal complaint is "a written statement of the essential facts constituting the public offense charged." In practical terms, a criminal complaint is a document that gives only the most basic details of the alleged crime. The complaint is typewritten by the District Attorney and filed in Justice Court. To see an example of a criminal complaint filed in Las Vegas Justice Court, click here. In this example, the District Attorney has filed a complaint that contains a single count (i.e., one criminal charge) for burglary, a felony. In this particular case, the investigating detective submitted reports to the District Attorney, who in turn filed this complaint and requested an arrest warrant. That arrest warrant was issued by the Justice Court, but before the defendant was arrested, I quickly filed a motion, negotiated the case, and had the warrant recalled.
Citation. A citation is similar to a criminal complaint, in that it contains a bare minimum of essential details to inform the criminal defendant about his charges. The difference is that a citation is a form that is filled out on the scene of the alleged crime by a responding police officer rather than typed up later by the District Attorney. To take a look at an example of a criminal citation issued by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, click here. This form is pink because the police officer writes on a carbon paper with multiple layers copies. The bottom copy, the pink copy, is the defendant's copy, and it is typically difficult to read. When a police officer decides to issue a citation, this means the offense is a misdemeanor and the police officer has decided not to arrest the person, usually because the offense is a petty, or relatively minor offense. The police officer who issues the citation sends a copy of the citation to the District Attorney for the filing of formal charges—usually by way of criminal complaint. Because citations are issued only in petty cases, it is unusual for an arrest warrant to be issued based on a citation as opposed to a criminal complaint (read in the section below about the District Attorney's discretion in asking for a summons or arrest warrant).
Affidavit. An affidavit is simply a written statement that is notarized. The notarization process verifies that the statement isn't fraudulently attributed to some person (identification must be shown to the notary before it is stamped) and also provides that the person making the statement is doing so under the penalty of perjury (i.e., the person could be criminally charged if the statement is false). In an arrest warrant scenario, the affidavit provided to the court is going to be a written narrative of investigation from a Las Vegas Metro Detective. If you spoke to the detective, his affidavit will contain references to those conversations. To read more about what to do if a detective is contacting you about an alleged crime or you've already spoken to a detective, read the "Talking to Detectives" section below.
Keep in mind, an arrest warrant is usually issued based on both a detective's affidavit and a criminal complaint. This is because the detective will first submit his affidavit to the District Attorney, who then files a criminal complaint. In deciding whether there has been a showing of probable cause, the judge will look at the complaint and any affidavits.
If a judge finds probable cause based on a citation, complaint, affidavit, or some combination of those documents, an arrest warrant will issue. However, pursuant to NRS 171.106, the District Attorney has discretion to ask that an arrest warrant not be issued, and that a summons be issued instead. What is a summons? A summons is a document that is sent to your last known resident "summoning" you, so to speak, to come to court to answer a criminal charge. In simple terms, a summons is better than an arrest warrant because it allows you to show up to court out of custody and without having to post bail, and allows you to deal with your charges without getting arrested and booked.
However, the reality of the situation is that the District Attorney will usually only ask for a summons (as opposed to an arrest warrant) in petty misdemeanor cases. The rule of thumb is, if you're charged with a felony, the District Attorney is asking for an arrest warrant. If you're charged with a misdemeanor, the prosecutor will likely ask for a summons. However, there are some types of misdemeanor cases, such as domestic battery, where arrest warrants are routinely issued over summonses.
Arrest warrants can also be issued out of District Court (trial court) if you have been indicted by a grand jury. The typical scenario is that charges are dismissed in Las Vegas Justice Court, usually because essential witnesses didn't show up or drug test results weren't available, but the State still has time (based on the applicable statute of limitations) to re-file charges. When the charges are dismissed, the District Attorney will serve upon the defendant or his defense attorney a document called a "Notice of Intent to Seek Indictment." This notice must be provided in the event that the defendant wants to testify before the grand jury or otherwise provide exculpatory evidence to the District Attorney to pass along to the members of the grand jury. The bottom line is, if an arrest warrant is going to be issued based on a grand jury indictment, you should have had ample notice it was coming down.
Both arrest warrants and bench warrants allow police to arrest individuals to bring them to court for some particular reason or another. The difference, to put it simply, is that a bench warrant is only issued when you miss a court date, whereas an arrest warrant can be issued even if you fully cooperate and never miss any court dates.
A bench warrant typically can be "quashed" (i.e., removed or cleared) by placing the matter back on calendar in the appropriate court. An arrest warrant cannot technically be "quashed." There are other ways to deal with an arrest warrant that yield similarly positive results for criminal defendants, but read more about that below in the section titled "How can a Defense Attorney Help?"
Arrest warrants are active whereas bench warrants are passive. That is, arrest warrants command police actively to go out and arrest you, whereas bench warrants just allow police to arrest you happen to come into contact with them. In many instances, police will act swiftly to find you and take you to jail once the arrest warrant becomes active.
The reality is, however, that police only have so much manpower, and it may take them a while to arrest a person once the arrest warrant issues. I have had people come to me with arrest warrants that have been active for weeks, months, even years. In many cases where an arrest warrant has been active for a long time, the person subject to arrest has typically moved out of state and therefore the police can't find him. But if you have moved out of state and have an active felony arrest warrant, clearing that warrant should be a top priority, since out of state individuals with arrest warrants are subject to the process of extradition, which can add weeks or months of unnecessary incarceration onto the process of getting you before a judge in Nevada. Read more about this in the section below.
If you live outside the State of Nevada and a felony warrant has been issued for your arrest, you may be arrested in your home state and extradited to Nevada for prosecution. This can greatly prolong the time it takes to resolve a criminal case. Unfortunately, you may have to return to Nevada to deal with your felony arrest warrant. But this is not always the case. In some cases, such as bad check cases, it may be possible to resolve your charges without you ever having to come back to the State of Nevada. Read more about this below in the section titled "How can a Defense Attorney Help?"
Don't talk to detectives if you're suspected of committing a crime. Some people believe that they can talk their way out of trouble, or that the detective actually just wants to hear their "side of the story." In some instances, a detective wants to talk to you so he can arrest you on the spot, because he already has all the evidence he needs. Other times, detectives want to talk to you because they don't have enough evidence to arrest you. No matter how much or how little evidence the police have, there's nothing quite as powerful as a "confession" to end the case in the District Attorney's favor before it even begins. In other words, there's no good reason to talk to detectives if you're suspected of committing a crime. Detectives will threaten you with an arrest warrant if you don't come down to the police station and subject yourself to interrogation, but keep this in mind: at this point, they either have enough evidence to arrest you or they don't.
Instead of talking to detectives, call a criminal defense attorney. As stated above, if detectives have enough evidence for an arrest warrant to issue, there's nothing you can do to stop that at this point. But a criminal defense attorney can speak with the detective and ask him for the professional courtesy of a telephone call when the detective's affidavit is being submitted to the District Attorney. This way, we can more easily monitor the Justice Court calendar to act swiftly, and hopefully have the matter on calendar and resolved before or shortly after the arrest warrant goes active. This is just the first step in the process. Please read on.
If you suspect that you may have an active arrest warrant in Las Vegas Justice Court, or any of the other Justice Courts in Clark County, such as Henderson or North Las Vegas, a defense attorney like me can provide you an answer quickly and perhaps set your mind at ease.
A good criminal defense attorney can help you immensely if you have an arrest warrant or think one might be issued in the near future.
If you think you may have an active felony arrest warrant, I will first search the appropriate databases. If no active arrest warrant comes up, I may contact the detective to see what stage of the process he is in as far as investigating the alleged crime, writing reports, and submitting those reports to the District Attorney. Assuming the detective submits a legally adequate affidavit, there may be a delay of a few days up to a few weeks before the District Attorney files the complaint, the judge signs off on the warrant, and the police coming knocking on your door.
So if you don't have an active warrant yet, I will monitor the Justice Court databases, and as soon as the District Attorney files the complaint (providing us a case number under which to file pleadings), I will file a motion to place the matter on calendar. It takes about three days for an arrest warrant to be signed by the judge following the filing of a criminal complaint, and I can have a matter placed on calendar in Justice Court in two business days, so if everything is handled swiftly, the arrest warrant will not be active for very long, if at all, before we get to court.
On the other hand, if there is an active warrant for your arrest, I will place the matter on calendar immediately, and, as stated above, we will be in court in two business days after I file the motion.
So what do I do once we get to court? As explained above, you don't "quash" an arrest warrant, even though some attorneys do file motions to titled "motion to quash arrest warrant." In some ways this might seem like an unimportant distinction, but an arrest warrant has to be "recalled," and the District Attorney has to consent to the warrant being recalled. If you recall reading about the arrest warrant process above, when probable cause is shown, the judge will issue an arrest warrant unless the District Attorney exercises discretion and asks for a summons to be issued instead. So if I am able to negotiate the case favorably with the District Attorney and the deal involves a plea to a misdemeanor (or perhaps a dismissal of the charges, even), then the District Attorney will agree to "recall" the warrant. That is what makes the distinction meaningful. The District Attorney does not have to consent to a bench warrant being quashed, whereas technically, the District Attorney must consent to recall an arrest warrant. In practice, however, I have seen some judges "recall" an arrest warrant after a defense attorney files a "motion to quash arrest warrant." This is why, as a defense attorney, it is good to have experience in all of the Justice Court departments.
But what if I can't negotiate the case right away for a favorable result? Do you have to go to jail? No. Some felony charges require more work and more time to resolve favorably, so it's not always possible to have a case wrapped up on the first appearance. But in the meantime, I want to keep you out of jail and get the case moving forward. So here is what I do. I will file a motion for an "own recognizance walkthrough" (OR walkthrough). This means that I'm asking that you not be taken into custody. This means that I'm asking the judge to let you remain out of custody while the case is pending without having to pay any bail. If the judge grants my motion for an OR walkthrough, you will be given a referral to take to the Clark County Detention Center (CCDC) for processing. Specifically, you will still have to be booked into CCDC briefly to have your photo and fingerprints taken. After that you will be released, however, with a return court date. It's called a "walkthrough" because you are not being held in jail. Instead, you're "walking through" before being released to the streets. So in effect, this motion, if granted, "quashes" the arrest warrant, albeit with a quick stop in CCDC to provide some information.
I will aggressively pursue the OR Walkthrough, providing the court with additional factual information not found in the police reports, and indicating anything else in your favor, such as work history, family support, lack of serious record, and many other factors. However, worst case scenario, if the judge does not agree to grant you the own recognizance walkthrough, a bail will be set. I will seek the lowest bail possible.
If you have an active arrest warrant or are under investigation for a crime and need help, call me now. In Las Vegas, I have helped many people with active arrest warrants for serious felony charges avoid any jail time and avoid having to pay any bail to remain out of custody. I have helped out of state criminal defendants avoid jail time and avoid a trip back to Las Vegas. I have negotiated dismissals of felony arrest warrant cases in less than a week from the client's initial call to the time the negotiation was stated on the record in court.
Consultations are always free so call or text me now at my personal cell phone number, which is listed on the banner of this page.