How to Clear Warrants in San Diego County
Each division of the San Diego Superior Court has a separate procedure for recalling bench warrants and arrest warrants. The procedures are more involved for felony warrants and for some types of misdemeanor warrants. For example, misdemeanor domestic violence warrants, code enforcement, and child abuse violations required the personal presence of the defendant at the initial court appearance. Almost every other type of misdemeanor warrant can be handled without the personal presence of the defendant. The attorney is free to appear in court without the defendant, request that the court rescind the warrant, and asked the court for a future hearing to be set. Indeed, misdemeanor warrants are often issued for alleged violations of probation and these warrants can often be rescinded with probation reinstated on the same day. The downtown court will allow most misdemeanor warrants to be cleared at the clerks office.
On the other hand, all felony warrants require the personal presence of the defendant in order to clear the warrant. Each division of the San Diego Superior Court has a different process for handling these types of warrants.
The San Diego Superior Court Central division, downtown San Diego, requires that the attorney appear in court and set a particular day for the defendant to appear in court. The hearing must be at least three days away. The defendant would then be required to attend the hearing. The judge would decide whether to rescind the warrant and leave the defendant out of custody or remand the defendant to the custody of the Sheriff. Almost always, the Court follows the unwritten rule that a defendant who walks into court will walk out of court. The East County division of the San Diego Court basically follows the same procedure.
The North County branch of the San Diego Court, in Vista, California, follows a slightly different procedure. That court requires that the attorney personally appear in the presiding department and request that the judge allow the matter to be placed on calendar. The request is called an ex parte request for a hearing. If the request is granted, which it always is, the attorney is obligated to notify the Office of the District Attorney and, in some cases, the Department of Probation, of the date, time, and place of the hearing. The attorney and the defendant would then appear at the date and time of the hearing and argue the matter.
The South Bay branch of the San Diego Court, in Chula Vista, California, has the most difficult procedure. That court requires that the defendant appear personally with the attorney before the matter may be placed on the court calendar. In this court, the hearing to recall the warrant is always scheduled for the same day but the Court requires an appearance early in the morning. The court clerk will then noticed the presiding department that the defendant is there personally on the warrant. The presiding judge may choose to have the defendant held in custody until the hearing later in the afternoon. In that event, the defendant is held in a jail cell in the back of the court and allowed to remain in his or her street clothing. The defendant is not booked all the way in to the jail. Of course, the judge may decide to allow the defendant may remain free until the time of the hearing. The defendant and the lawyer would return about 6 to 8 hours later for the hearing.
In all cases, the attorney and the criminal defendant must spend time preparing for the hearing to recall the warrant in order to maximize the chances of the defendant remaining out of custody. In cases alleging a violation of probation, it is critical for the attorney to inspect and copy the court file and obtain an order from the judge to unseal the probation report so that the attorney can properly prepare for the initial hearing on the warrant. In those cases were a warrant had been issued for a failure to appear in court, the attorney must be prepared to address the issue of bail at the initial appearance. Again, in many cases, the court will recall the warrant and allow the defendant to remain free on his or her own recognizance pending the future court dates.
Of course, all warrants may be cleared by posting bail in the amount of the warrant prior to appearing in court. Many people opt to try for a bail reduction or release on their own recognizance without having to pay the money to post bail.
There are many details left out of this guide. An experienced local criminal defense practitioner should be thoroughly familiar with the custom and practice in each of the San Diego Superior Court’s with respect to warrants. For those persons who can afford to hire an attorney, there is a big advantage that may be gained if there is some time to prepare for the hearing. This office is available to consult with persons who have a warrant that need to be cleared. Contact us at any time.