What Happens To People With Outstanding DUI Warrants?
When a person is arrested for DUI
, generally they are able to post bail and get out of jail with the understanding that they are required to show up in court for a hearing on the matter at a later date. If they fail to show up for that court date to face the charges against them, a warrant for their arrest will be issued.
When a person accused of DUI shows up for court and is either found guilty or pleads no contest to drunk driving, the judge sentences that person. They are generally ordered to pay a fine, complete an alcohol education or treatment program, do community service or complete other court-ordered requirements to avoid going to jail. If the person convicted of DUI fails to complete any of the court-ordered requirements or pay the fine, a warrant will be issued for their arrest, in the same way as if they failed to appear in court.
Many of these warrants go unserved for a period of time, but they never go away. There is no statute of limitations on a warrant and eventually, one way or another, the person will have to face the music.
Because of limited police resources in many areas, DUI warrants are usually not immediately served as soon as they are issued. They are generally considered low priority, but the police know that eventually they will find or run into the person named on the warrant, and at that point they will be arrested.
A person who has skipped out on their DUI trial, or failed to complete some court-ordered requirement can assume that most likely there has been a warrant issued for their arrest. Just because the police did not come knock on their door does not mean that it will be forgotten.
In some jurisdictions, special limited-time periods of amnesty for DUI warrants is offered. The amnesty would mean that people with outstanding DUI warrants could come forward and turn themselves in without being arrested or having to post bond, and the charges against them for failing to appear in court or to complete the court-ordered requirements are dropped. They would then only have to answer for the original DUI charge. Generally speaking, this is a good deal for someone with an outstanding warrant to get it cleared up, as it usually is a good indication that police sweeps on the outstanding DUI warrants are on the way.
When a jurisdiction decides to put aside some time to conduct sweeps on outstanding DUI warrants, it means that the police will be actively seeking the people whose names are found on the warrants. At that point, DUI suspects are rounded up in bulk, arrested and put in jail. Then they will be processed not only for the original DUI charge, but also for failing to appear in court or failing to fulfill the court ordered requirements following their conviction.
When a person leaves the area in which their DUI warrant is issued, that doesn't mean that the warrant will never be served. It does mean that the warrant may be served at a very unexpected or inconvenient time though, which could make things worse. Having an outstanding warrant can prevent a person from getting a job, from leaving the country or even prevent them from re-entering the country without being arrested.
In general, it's best to clear up DUI charges in a timely manner to avoid any nasty surprises in the future. A person can generally move on with their lives after a DUI conviction, but if an outstanding DUI warrant is lurking, it may be all but impossible to move on.