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Criminal Defense Services For Maryland Warrants: Search, Bench And Arrest

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Many people panic if they receive notice of a warrant. After all, that means a Maryland court thinks you’ve committed a crime and is willing to break your rights to prove it.

Don’t let illegal searches or overzealous law enforcement take away your rights as a U.S. citizen. The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC will defend your side of the story in court, fighting for a fair trial and a just outcome.

What Is A Warrant?

Basically, a warrant is when a judge allows law enforcement to do something that ordinarily would be considered illegal, since it may violate citizens’ rights.

Authorization is only given when law enforcement can offer justification for their request. For example, a search warrant can only be authorized by a judge if police tell them what they intend to search, what they expect to find, and why it’s important for them to find it for the sake of their responsibilities.

Warrants are an important check on the power of law enforcement to stop them from illegally infringing on people’s rights – particularly those enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.

What Types Of Warrants Can Maryland Judges Issue?

Maryland courts can offer many different types of warrants – all of which would benefit from legal representation. Here are the three most common types of warrants our clients face.

Arrest Warrants

Judges and magistrates authorize someone’s arrest based on someone’s sworn promise that a specific law was broken by the exact people named on the arrest record.

These warrants are usually required for police to arrest someone when they did not personally witness a broken law.

So, a traffic stop can arrest someone for a DUI without a warrant because the arresting officer saw the law broken in front of them.

On the other hand, law enforcement would need a search warrant to examine a suspect’s computer for possible child pornography, since they did not personally witness the suspect downloading or distributing said illegal material.

Search Warrants

Maryland courts can authorize otherwise-illegal searches of personal property if law enforcement can prove:

  • Probable cause of a specific crime having been committed by a specific individual; and
  • Outline exactly what they want to search and what they expect to find.

Many searches conducted outside of a proper search warrant may break a defendant’s constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy.

Bench Warrants

This warrant is issued when a defendant fails to show up for a required appearance in Maryland court for another crime. (Courts take attendance extremely seriously.)

You can be arrested on a bench warrant, making them similar to an arrest warrant in practice.

How Do I Find Out If There Is An Outstanding Warrant Against Me?

You can find out if Maryland courts have issued a warrant from you in a variety of ways.

Most directly, you can always look for your name on the Maryland Judiciary Case Search. The case search will let you know about any outstanding – still to be filled – warrants that law enforcement has filed for you.

For many types of warrants, you should get some sort of official letter or document from the issuing court. This is called “serving” – a legal term for “delivering” – a warrant.

The warrant can arrive as:

  • Certified mail requiring your signature to show you received it
  • A local sheriff or another court representative personally delivers it
  • Other unorthodox methods as required and authorized by the issuing court

(As a note: Many court documents are required to be “served” to the opposing party in many different cases. As part of our legal services, we have served legal documents to the opposing through social media messages and text messages in addition to the traditional methods to thoroughly fulfill our legal obligations.)

In general, those who are the target of a warrant are usually required to be notified of an issued warrant in their case. Exceptions can occur for federal-level cases, however.

For example, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not require the target to be notified of their observation, even if a court authorizes a warrant for it. The President can also allow their attorney general to watch the target and infringe on their privacy for up to a year without a court’s authorization, but only for foreign targets.

Those exceptions are generally for federal-based cases, however. Maryland state courts generally need to notify the named offender on the warrant.

Why Does Law Enforcement Need A Warrant To Search Me? Are All Searches Illegal?

According to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Basically, it protects all US citizens from being subjected to “unreasonable” searches and seizures. That’s why the police need a judge to sign off on the warrant after giving them specifics as to why and what they want to do.

Law enforcement can push this right to the limit, however, resulting in possible illegal searches & seizures of property.

For example, the Fourth Amendment only protects against “unreasonable searches,” not all searches. If police have “probable cause,” then they may still conduct a search.

Searches are generally deemed to be reasonable if a situation arises that justifies a warrantless search take place. For example, a justified warrantless search might involve police looking for weapons following an arrest.

There is another exception to the amendment against searches. If the person being searched did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy regarding the place being searched, then authorities do not require a warrant.

The Supreme Court instituted a two-part test to see if there was a “legitimate expectation of privacy:”

  1. Did someone expect that what was searched would remain private?
  2. Was that person’s expectation reasonable?

For example, most people feel and expect their homes to be private. On the other hand, most people would not expect their front lawns to be private. Therefore, anything out on the front lawn can be examined and compiled as part of law enforcement’s case against a defendant – but not from their living room – without a search warrant.

This rule can also be an interesting grey space at school. For example, let’s say that your child was caught bringing drugs to school in the case of their musical instrument.

Was searching their case “reasonable” by law enforcement, or did your student have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” to their personally owned instrument, even while on school property? Only a criminal defense lawyer would be able to tell the difference for a specific case.

Whenever you’ve been searched by police, contact a legal defense firm to see if they think the search was legal – and if you can fight back against it. Any evidence collected during an illegal search cannot be entered into court, as well as any evidence stemming from that search.

Can I Get Rid Of A Warrant? What Does “Quashing” A Warrant Mean?

It is possible to legally get rid of a warrant – sometimes.

The technical legal jargon is to “file a motion to recall and quash” a specific warrant. That is, the defendant or their criminal defense lawyer requests that a warrant be rescinded due to some sort of justification.

Usually, the best type of warrant to file a motion to quash for is a bench warrant – when the court authorizes the police to arrest you because you didn’t show up to your court hearing.

You’d need to offer a really solid excuse as to why you didn’t attend court on the required day, such as:

  • Being very sick or injured – and you basically have a doctor’s note testifying to that fact
  • Someone under your care was very sick or injured, and you couldn’t leave them to attend
  • The court didn’t tell you when the hearing was (rather rare, but does happen)
  • You were in jail on other charges, and so physically couldn’t attend
  • You did everything in your power to attend, but “acts of God” – events outside of your control – occurred to keep you from going. (Think of your transportation suddenly failing at the last minute.)

For a judge to quash a warrant, you’d need to have substantial evidence that proves your arguments.

Other types of warrants are much more difficult to quash. The best call is to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent you for the charges outlined in the warrant. Then, you can discuss the best way to move forward.

Often for arrest warrants, we advise clients to let us speak with the local police station and arrange a time for the client to turn themselves in – and then arrange for a quick release on bail or other requirements. Our clients often feel a sense of relief and empowerment as they take back control of the warrant process, rather than waiting for the axe to fall at any time.

This method is only recommended on the advice and assistance of your legal counsel, however. Doing so because you’re “innocent” and think cooperating with the police will automatically dismiss your charges may lead to greater problems!

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Group Photo of Attorneys The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC
Group Photo of Attorneys The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC