When investigating a federal crime, law enforcement agencies will keep details of the investigation secret for months or even years until they’ve gathered enough evidence against a suspect to make an arrest. 

For anyone who suspects that they might be under investigation by federal law enforcement, this can mean not knowing for sure that they are under investigation until the U.S. Marshals are knocking at their door. 

If you have any reason to believe that you might be under federal investigation or that you might have a federal arrest warrant, the best thing you can do is contact a federal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand what you may be up against, advise you on what to do next, and help ease your stress. 

How do I know if I have a federal arrest warrant?

A federal arrest warrant is issued by a judge when a law enforcement agency like the FBI, ATF, or DEA have gathered enough evidence in an investigation against someone to make an arrest. 

Once the federal magistrate has issued the warrant, United States Marshals are sent to apprehend the suspect and take them into custody.

Federal arrest warrants are stored in a database known as the U.S. Marshal’s Service Warrant Information System (WIN). Warrants, court records, and internal documents for federal cases are all stored in the WIN. The WIN is not publicly available; therefore, it is not possible to search the WIN in order to find out if you have a federal warrant. Most often, it is not until United States Marshals arrive at a person’s residence or workplace to arrest them that they find out that they have a federal warrant. 

However, a few ways that you might find out about a warrant ahead of time might be:

  • A letter from the court notifying you of the warrant
  • Someone close to you, such as a relative or associate, is arrested or contacted by U.S. Marshals
  • You are not at home or at work when U.S. Marshals arrive to arrest you

What to do if you have a federal arrest warrant

If you find out that you have a federal arrest warrant before the U.S. Marshals attempt to arrest you, you should:

  1. Retain a federal criminal defense attorney
  2. Have your attorney contact the U.S. Marshal’s office and arrange a time and place for you to surrender
  3. Surrender to U.S. Marshals at the agreed upon time and place

Surrendering to U.S. Marshals is preferable to waiting for them to make the arrest in a few ways. First, it prevents the stress and negative ramifications of having them appear at your home or workplace. It also allows your attorney to schedule an initial appearance and detention hearing with the U.S. Attorney, which means that you will spend less time in custody and will have the earliest possible opportunity to argue for bail.  

Hire the right federal defense attorney to represent you

If you have an outstanding federal arrest warrant, you’ll want to hire an attorney to represent you right away. However, not all federal defense attorneys are alike, and it is worth making sure that you hire the right attorney for you and your situation.  It is common for attorneys to offer a free initial consultation before you secure them as your legal counsel. The consultation is a great opportunity to find out if they:

  • Have experience representing cases similar to yours. Federal cases can cover a wide variety of offenses from drug trafficking to mail fraud. Has the attorney successfully represented clients charged with the same offense? 
  • What is their communication style? Do they explain things clearly? Are they easy to get a hold of? What forms of communication do they use to stay in contact with their clients?
  • How dedicated and aggressive are they when it comes to handling federal cases? How much time do they have to dedicate to individual clients? Do they have a competent team working with them? Are they proactive in defending your rights?

The federal government’s pursuit of criminal cases is notoriously aggressive. As a federal criminal defense attorney who has been practicing since 1984, Robert M. Helfend is just as aggressive and steadfast when it comes to defending your rights and fighting for your freedom. Based in Ventura and the Los Angeles area, he has been named on the National Trial Lawyers Top 100, SuperLawyers and Lead Counsel. Call today for your free consultation – 805-273-5611.