A magistrate with the Bessemer Municipal Court, about 20 minutes outside of Birmingham, has announced the implementation of an amnesty program for those with outstanding warrants for Failure to Appear, starting on March 15.
Our Birmingham criminal defense lawyers know that this is by no means an entirely novel approach, but it can be a good opportunity to potentially reduce the penalties you might face for not showing up to court in the first place. However, anyone who suspects they may have an outstanding warrant should first speak with an experienced attorney to learn more about their options.
Many times, people who are about to enter police custody don't have the option of consulting with an attorney right away. As you have this option, you should avail yourself of it. We will not only give you a general idea of how the process is going to work, we will advise you on what to say – or not to say – if police attempt to question you. Depending on the severity of the charge, we may be able to help you prearrange a quick, low bail so that you endure minimal interruptions to daily life. In some cases, you may be allowed to actually bring your bail money with you to the jail so that you can bond out almost immediately.
Additionally, we can often help prearrange the terms of your bail. The goal there would be to help lessen the restrictions that will be made on you after you are released, such as who you may be able to speak with or be around, whether you may drive, whether you may have freedom to attend work or school.
Often, people with outstanding warrants overlook the fact that they are turning themselves in can be used as a bargaining chip to help set these conditions. It must however be done with the help of an experienced attorney to act as an intermediary.
Probably the worst thing you can do is ignore an outstanding warrant. For one thing, constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering whether you may be taken in at any moment – that's no way to live. Secondly, depending on what your warrant is for, you risk an unexpected and potentially violent confrontation with police. Panic causes people in these situations to make sudden movements or even lash out. That can potentially result in more charges or even bodily injury.
Amnesty programs, like the one being offered in Bessemer, are primarily intended to help courts purge a glut of backed up cases by getting the defendants to show up so that the issues may be resolved. Bessemer has 5,000 outstanding warrants dating back more than a decade. Still, you can work it to your advantage.
As of right now, the courts say there are thousands of people who have outstanding FTA warrants in Bessemer. Operation Clean Slate will cover any of those FTA warrants issued from 2002 through the present, and will only be extended for those charged with a misdemeanor crime.
The court says it is trying to widely publicize the information so that people don't treat it as a potential scam. This is yet another reason why speaking to a lawyer first is a good idea. Law enforcement agencies in recent years have gotten clever in extending certain awards or free giveaways in an attempt to lure those with outstanding warrants to a location so that they may be arrested. So naturally, people may be suspicious of this. Talking with a defense lawyer first will help you gauge whether the offer is legitimate and whether it makes sense for you to move on it.
Contact Birmingham Criminal Defense Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.
Bessemer magistrate wants to offer justice with efficiency, March 8, 2013, By Jesse Chambers, AL.com