How to Find Out If You Have a Warrant in Missouri
If you have old tickets or criminal charges that you haven’t taken care of and you want to check and see if you have a warrant, call the court and ask the court clerk if they have issued a warrant against you. You can also check online at Missouri case.net, but their records won’t be as current as those kept by court clerks, and not all municipal courts participate in case.net.
Or you can hire an attorney to do a warrant search. Traffic law attorneys and criminal defense attorneys are more likely than other types of attorneys to subscribe to an online service that allows them to search a database to find out which courts have issued arrest warrants against you. Expect to pay a small fee for this service.
Why Did the Court Issue a Warrant Against You?
Missouri courts issue arrest warrants for many reasons, but here are a few of the most common ones:
- you failed to pay your fine for a speeding ticket or other moving violation
- the court put you on a payment plan to pay off your fines and you missed a payment
- you failed to appear in court for your court date
- you were in an accident in a car that was not insured and you didn’t pay for the damages to the other driver’s car
The court clerk can tell you why a warrant was issued against you. Or, if you hire an attorney to run a warrant search, they can identify the courts that issued warrants against you and explain the underlying charges.
Some courts will issue warrants against a vehicle’s license plates if the registered owner of the vehicle fails to pay a red-light camera ticket fine. See my previous post about St. Ann Municipal Court issuing warrants for unpaid red-light camera fines.
How Long Until a Court Issues a Warrant?
A court will not notify you before issuing a warrant against you. Some courts issue warrants on the first day after you fail to appear at your court date or miss a payment. Other courts wait a few weeks before issuing an active warrant. If you’re lucky, the court will send a letter reminding you that you failed to pay your fine or missed your court date before they issue a warrant or Failure to Appear (FTA) charge. However, don’t count on this unless you want to spend a few days in jail, waiting for your friends to bail you out.
Courts Require You to Pay a Bond to Get Out of Jail
Many courts will issue a Failure to Appear charge after you miss your first court date, but if you miss court a second time, the court will issue an arrest warrant and will set a bond, which is an amount of money that you have to pay to the court to get your warrant cancelled and to get a new court date. Bond amounts can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars, depending on the nature of the charges against you.
Some bonds are “Cash Only.” This means you can’t use a bail bondsman, so the only way you will get out of jail before the next court date is if your friends or family members pay your bond in cash. If you can’t pay the bond, you will sit in jail until the next court date, which could be a few days or a few weeks away, since some municipal courts only hold court once or twice a month.
How to Get Your Warrant Lifted
In most cases, an attorney can get your warrant cancelled (“lifted”) and obtain a new court date for you. If you hire an attorney to lift your warrant, you won’t have to pay the bond. Your attorney will then negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor to have your charges reduced to a lesser offense, and the prosecutor will assess the fine and court costs, plus other fees, such as a warrant fee or Failure to Appear fee.
Some courts such as Moline Acres Municipal Court and Maplewood Municipal Court won’t cancel a warrant just because an attorney files a pleading requesting it. In those courts, the defendant’s only option is to pay the bond in order to cancel the warrant and get a new court date.
If you have already pleaded guilty but you failed to pay the fines, or if an attorney represented you and you failed to pay the fines, then the court will issue a warrant for your arrest. In this type of situation, an attorney will not be able to lift your warrant. You will have to pay off all your fines and court costs in full before the court will lift your warrant.
If you have multiple warrants in several different courts and the police arrest you and take you to jail for one of those warrants, then as soon as you pay your bond or appear before the judge in court, you will be sent to jail in the next court that issued a warrant for your arrest. The next jail won’t release you and give you a new court date until you pay a separate bond or appear before the judge in court. This process will be repeated in each city or county where you have a warrant.
If possible, your best option in this type of situation is to hire an attorney to get your warrant cancelled before the police transport you from the first jail to the next jail where you have a warrant.
Warrants Are Not Limited to the City That Issued the Warrant
Some people think if they have a warrant in one city or county, then as long as they stay away from that city or county, they won’t be arrested. This is not true. For example, if the city of St. Ann, Missouri issues a warrant for your arrest and you are pulled over in Brentwood, Missouri (or any other town) for a traffic violation, the police officer will see that you have a warrant in St. Ann and he will take you to the St. Ann jail.
Some warrants are limited to a region or metropolitan area, while other warrants are issued throughout the entire state.
Instead of a Warrant, Some Courts Issue a Hold on Your Driver’s License
Instead of issuing a warrant, some courts issue a Lieu of Bail Hold Order on your driver’s license if you miss your first court date or fail to pay your fine for a speeding ticket or other traffic violation. If there is a Lieu of Bail hold on your license, you can still drive legally, but you can’t renew your driver’s license, get a duplicate license, change your address listed on your license, or upgrade your license from one class to another.
To get the Lieu of Bail Hold removed, you must pay the fine (or hire an attorney to get the ticket reduced to a non-moving violation) and provide the Missouri Department of Revenue with a “release” from the court, proving that you have paid your fine.