The Police Showed Up but I Left | Wasn’t There: A Criminal Defense Attorney’s Perspective
Clients deliberately or inadvertently leave a crime scene and the police show up. Will the case go away? Will police officers come looking? Will a warrant be issued? Will they receive charging paperwork in the mail? As criminal defense attorneys | lawyers we field this question a lot. The answer depends on (1) how bad the facts are and (2) how serious the potential charges are. The answer can range from the case will never be filed as a criminal charge, to you will get arraignment paperwork in the mail, to a warrant will be issued, to a full-scale manhunt with warrants and freeway traffic alerts are already underway. Answering this question is not an exact science but our office is long on experience and common sense.
Leaving to Get Some Space or Avoid Arrest. Some clients leave the scene of a fight or argument because it was getting or had gotten out of control and they needed to cool off or get away. Some clients leave a domestic violence situation because they are afraid that the officers will arrest them because of the mandatory arrest provisions surrounding Domestic Violence. Some clients leave the scene because they know they have committed a crime and do not want to be arrested.
- Regardless of why you left, officers generally will look for you if they have an idea of where you are and it is close. They will often search the immediate geographic vicinity of a crime scene, as they do not want to leave only to have someone return, and reengage an alleged victim or have evidence destroyed. Depending on the seriousness of the underlying crime and on the number of other calls that night, they may immediately follow up leads to locate you.
- If the victim indicates that you are dangerous or that you have a previous record that would lead an officer to believe you could be dangerous, a warrant may be issued or searches may get increasingly intensive. In general, the more serious the crime is, the more serious the investigation.
- If the crime is for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor (lower level crimes) and you have no criminal history, your chances are much better that a warrant will not be issued assuming the right facts. Felony charges (higher level crimes) are highly fact specific.
- Even if you were not arrested and no warrant was issued, this does not mean a case has gone away; officers can still turn in paperwork and prosecuting attorneys can still file charges and mail you an arraignment date. Failure to appear at an arraignment is almost always an automatic warrant. Make sure your Washington State Identification Card or drivers license has a correct and up to date mailing address and have this mail-checked daily. We check the court system weekly for arraignment dates for retained clients.
Turning yourself in. In our experience as criminal defense attorneys | lawyers, we can say, in general, choosing to turn yourself in puts you in a better position with the judge who will set your release conditions and bail. There are exceptions where it won’t matter; but, again, we speak in general terms. If you left or fled a crime and later realize it is best to deal with it, our office can help make this process as clean and painless as possible by advising you as to the process, arranging for your arrest and turn in, prearranging for a bail bondsman and pre-preparing for arguments surrounding release conditions at arraignment. Affirmatively dealing with criminal issues is always better than being picked up and brought into court on a warrant. One decision indicates a willingness to be reasonable and has respect for the law; the other indicates that you are a flight risk and demonstrates a lack of respect for the law. Contact our office for an appointment to discuss your situation.
The criminal defense lawyers | attorneys in our office have handled an enormous number of complicated cases in the criminal arena over the course of our lengthy criminal law careers. We are a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament. Our lawyers know criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police reports claim and our clients hire us because they want staunch and effective counsel who takes the time to make sure their clients’ rights are protected. Whether our role is as legal counsel, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience fighting and resolving cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.County District Court, Grant County Superior Court, Lincoln County District Court, Adams County Superior Court, Spokane County District Court, Spokane County Superior Court and Whitman County District Court.