I just put up this new web page for clearing warrants in Southern California: CLEAR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WARRANTS.
I've noticed there is a need for this service all over Southern California, because our Court system generates many different warrants, and they pop up on back ground checks, they interfere with obtaining a driver's license, and of course, they can cause you to get arrested in an otherwise non-arrest-able situation like a traffic stop. The situation is especially perilous for those who are not in the country legally, they risk falling into the hands of Federal officials.
The first question that people ask is, "Do I have a warrant?" The answer to this question is often available from the facts that people possess when they call me for the first time. There are three major categories of warrants. The first is the "bench" warrant, typically issued in traffic and misdemeanor cases, most often because the individual charged with the traffic infraction or misdemeanor does not appear for a scheduled court appearance. The second is the arrest warrant. Most people think all warrants are arrest warrants, but this is not true. Bench warrants are a lower priority for law enforcement and do not result in an arrest if you come into contact with a police officer.
Arrest warrants are issued in felony cases or if someone misses a court appearance or for a misdemeanor after the case has started. Thus, if you know of a scheduled court appearance, and know that the person involved didn't make that court appearance, it is highly likely that a warrant has been issued, either bench or arrest. The exceptions are when the case itself is filed. For example, if you are arrested for driving under the influence, and it turns out that your blood alcohol level was under .08, you likely won't be charged, and so if you don't show up, and the case isn't issued, no warrant is issued.
95% of the time, any confusion can be resolved by figuring out whether the underlying case that resulted in the missed court appearance was actually filed. In traffic cases, tickets always result in the case being filed (an infraction, usually), in misdemeanors the likelihood varies by type of crime and jurisdiction. Felonies are filed some of the time after arrest, but not always. If a court date has been missed, the easiest way to verify the existence of a case is to find the appropriate county court website and search their party case index. This typically works for felony and misdemeanor cases, but may or may not work for traffic cases.
If you have determined that a warrant exists, you can clear it by either appearing at the appropriate court house yourself, or you can hire a lawyer to do it for you. For traffic infractions and misdemeanors, a lawyer can appear for you, but for felonies you need to go- preferably in the company of a lawyer.
When people call me about traffic warrants, I typically recommend they handle it themselves (unless they are out of the area.) Misdemeanors can also be handled by the person with the warrant, but a lawyer is a better value for these cases, since they can require several court appearances. Trying to appear on a Felony warrant by yourself will clear the warrant, but often results in the arrest of the person appearing. A lawyer may be able to help you avoid being arrested for a felony warrant, but typically the person will need to post bail, on top of what they pay their lawyer.
Unfortunately, warrants do not go away, so the only option is to deal with it, or to have the warrant remain outstanding forever.