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  • Writer's pictureLuis Baez

Can you turn yourself in on a warrant without going to jail? Houston Texas Criminal Attorney

Can you turn yourself in on a warrant in Houston, Texas without having to go to jail?


If you have a warrant in Harris County you're probably worried and stressed about turning yourself in to the county jail. We handle warrants for misdemeanor DWI, Theft, Assault Family Member and other cases all the way up to first-degree or capital felonies. These arrest warrants are often unexpected and frequently take place without any notice to or input from you. The police don't have to tell you that you have a warrant and once one has gone active then any police officer that has contact with you is required to arrest you on the spot. This can turn a traffic ticket into a trip to jail. You can check if you have a warrant in Harris County online.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with or new to the Texas criminal justice system but find yourself needing to address the stressful situation of learning about an outstanding warrant hovering over your head, you are probably wondering:


Is there a way to turn myself in on a warrant without going to jail?

 

The Bottom Line: Yes. We call it a "walk-thru." Courts can grant permission to let you take care of an arrest warrant through a walk-thru but it is not guaranteed. Because no one is automatically entitled to a walk-thru on an arrest warrant under Texas law, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to get the best advice about your particular situation and case.


If you have a warrant with a bond that's already been set meaning the warrant lists the amount of the bond, you can go with a bail bondsman to the jail and do a walk-thru. The jail will take your picture, they take your fingerprints but you don't really have to go to jail and get dressed out. At least, that's as of January 2024 in Harris County; that's what's going on.


The problem comes when you have no bond set on your case. This happens a lot in misdemeanor Family Violence cases. If you've assaulted someone, and that person is a member of your family, your spouse, somebody you're dating, or maybe just a roommate—let's say your college roommates—that would be an assault family member case. A lot of times on your warrant, the District Attorney's office will call that a "to-be" warrant, meaning the amount of bond is going "to be" assessed later, and it will say on the documents that it's going to be set at magistration.


Magistration is the process after you get arrested, taken to the jail, dressed out, you go in front of a judge. We don't want you to have to do that, so what we want to do is a walk-thru. That can happen on felony cases; it can happen on misdemeanor cases, but we're going to get into a little bit about what that is. So, can I turn myself in on a warrant without having to go to jail? Yes, if you can do a walk-thru.


So how do you do a walk-thru? Well, the first thing you want to do is contact an attorney and then arrange a time to appear in court with that attorney. Harris County has a docket basically every day of the year. There are so many counties where that doesn't happen, but in Harris County, we can normally arrange pretty quickly to get into court. So when we go to court, you will go with your attorney; you'll call a bail bondsman. You'll arrange an agreement for attorney fees and paying the bail bondsman so they can go with you and post the bond.


Then your attorney will wait for an opportunity to approach the bench and talk with the judge and say, "Hey, my client is here today; he has a warrant. We're turning ourselves in on the warrant, and we would like to discuss the case and have you do the Article 1517 hearing." This is a hearing to determine if there's probable cause to continue to hold you at all. If there's no probable cause, there's a chance the judge could just release you, and the case would be dismissed, but those are rare.


More likely than not, what's going to happen is the judge is going to hear the evidence a little bit from the prosecutor. They will make a determination that there's probable cause to hold you in jail, and instead of doing that, they will set a bond. If it's a family violence case, they may do a couple of other things. They may do what's called a protective order, which in a misdemeanor case would last typically for 61 days; in a felony case involving a deadly weapon, it could last up to 91 days. And that protective order is called in Harris County a MOEP or Magistrate's Order of Emergency Protection. That is something that can kick you out of your own home; it can prevent you from talking to your family member, your children, even if they're not the ones who were the victims of the offense—very severe things.


So what we would normally suggest doing is trying to present information to the judge that shows maybe you don't need all those same conditions. Maybe the case that you have is one where the community can be protected without having to resort to all of that.


Another thing that we might look into is your job situation. Are you somebody that works from home, and if you're kicked out of your home, you're basically being told you can't even have your job anymore while the case is pending? That's not fair and your attorney should fight to help you keep your job under these circumstances.


The classic example of someone learning about a warrant for their arrest is when they get pulled over for a simple traffic violation. For example, someone gets stopped for speeding in Houston on I-45, the law enforcement officer asks for their driver’s license and insurance information, they “run” the information on their “mobile data terminal,” and are notified of a pending warrant for some sort of criminal charge through their own system or a dispatcher on their own computer back at the station.

 

The cop returns to the driver’s side door and tells the driver they are under arrest for a criminal charge and have to be taken into custody (assuming the warrant is confirmed and a few other legal boxes are ticked). Then, thanks to the warrant, the law enforcement officer gets to search their person, their wallet, and their vehicle before it gets towed away from the scene. It does not matter whether or not the warrant may not have the full picture or if it eventually gets dismissed later in court, the person has to go to jail just to get the process started. If they are lucky, they might be released in under 24 hours from the time of arrest.

 

Unfortunately, in the Harris County at least, jail conditions are not great (to say the least). Over the past two years alone, at least 30 people died while in custody there due to poor conditions and overcrowding.

 

Fortunately, many Judges in the area are sensitive to that and know that people do not need the experience of spending a night in jail to recognize the seriousness of their situation. If persuasively presented with information about you, your family, your work and professional obligations, financial condition, and some other background information (along with the basic allegations of the charge against you), some courts will set a bond on your warrant and allow you to walk from court with a bondsman to their office and then to the t yourself without having to actually go into the jail. From there, you would be given an initial date to return to court and figure out what is happening with your case.

 

In our example above, someone who was unexpectedly arrested on warrant would have to wait in the jail until they are taken in front of a judge to get a bond amount. If you’re like us, you can’t afford being away from your family or job that long. At Houston Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC, we know how to advocate for a walkthrough and reasonable bond amount for your situation (and how to handle the case in court once that starts too).

 

For litigants who do not have counsel: Reading this blog post does not create an attorney client relationship. Call to set up a free consultation.

 

For the general public: This Blog/Web Site is for educational purposes only and it provides general information and a general understanding of the law, but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship created. Don't just read this as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney.

 

For attorneys: This Blog is informational and educational in nature and is not a substitute for Westlaw or other research and consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. As you know the law can change day to day based on recent case opinions. And unfortunately you shouldn't cite it in court as binding authority because it is not. Mention it to your friends, just seek real consultation if it’s something important.


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