Most of the time, if a federal judge or magistrate has issued a warrant for your arrest, you find out about it when law enforcement officers arrest you. If you are arrested (or think you might be arrested) on a federal drug charge, it is important you contact a federal criminal lawyer to protect your rights and ensure you avoid incriminating yourself.
Steps to Take Before An Arrest
On occasion, people learn about the existence of a warrant before they are arrested. That is most likely to happen when a co-defendant has been arrested and contacts you or your family with news that a warrant has also been issued for your arrest.
You might also learn about a warrant if law enforcement officers show up at your home to arrest you but you are not there. On occasion, law enforcement officials might contact your family, or even contact you by telephone, to give you a chance to surrender. That usually happens only if the criminal charge is not serious and you are not viewed as a flight risk.
If you learn that a federal warrant has been issued for your arrest, you should contact an attorney immediately. Unless you want to spend your life living as a fugitive, it is always better to surrender to the U.S. Marshal’s Office than it is to wait for them to find you and arrest you.
If you turn yourself in, you will demonstrate to the court that you are not a flight risk and you will improve your opportunity to be released on bail. If the court knows that you tried to avoid arrest or that you were hiding from law enforcement officers, your chance of being released on bail is substantially reduced.
Surrendering to Authorities
The best way to surrender is to retain a lawyer who will contact the U.S. Marshal’s Office on your behalf. Your lawyer can arrange for the time and place of your surrender. In some cases, the Marshal’s Office will want to arrest you before you have a chance to surrender, even if they know that you plan to surrender, but they are less likely to play those games if they know you are represented by a lawyer who is offering to arrange for your surrender.
Retaining a lawyer right away gives the lawyer an opportunity to contact the court and the U.S. Attorney’s office to schedule a prompt initial appearance and, if necessary, a detention hearing. You will need to be in custody long enough to be booked, but the sooner you appear in court, the sooner you have a chance to argue for release on bail.
If you wait to be arrested, that process is delayed until you can arrange to be represented by counsel. Putting a lawyer on your side immediately also lets the lawyer begin working right away to secure your freedom.