Many people believe they’re at no risk of being arrested by law enforcement in America. You would know if you had committed a crime, right? However, the law is not always that simple. Mistakes happen, court summons fall through the cracks, and it’s entirely possible to be unaware that there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Here are four reasons you might be arrested unexpectedly, along with what to do in each situation.
1. Neglected Traffic Tickets
Going to jail over traffic tickets may sound like a tall tale, but in many states with strict traffic laws, it’s a real possibility. Jail time for traffic violations can take the form of a reckless driving charge if you’re found speeding a certain amount over the speed limit (as little as 15 mph in some states.)
In Florida, many traffic violations are considered criminal offenses. This includes DUIs and hit-and-runs, but also habitual traffic offenders and reckless driving.
If you are supposed to be in court for one of these offenses but miss your court date for any reason, the judge may issue a bench warrant for traffic ticket charges. A bench warrant is a warrant for your arrest issued by a judge to ensure you don’t miss your next court date. If you suspect you’re at risk of arrest over a traffic ticket, contact a qualified Florida law firm with experience handling criminal traffic cases right away. A lawyer can make all the difference between a traumatizing arrest at work or home and staying out of jail entirely.
2. Your Children Missing School
Almost everyone knows that it’s illegal to keep your children from school unless you go through the steps of state-approved home schooling. However, not everyone is aware of truancy laws. These laws vary by state and make it a crime for school-aged children to miss a certain amount of days of school per year. As a parent, you can be charged with a misdemeanor in many states without any knowledge that you have broken the law.
If you find yourself facing jail for truancy laws, contact a lawyer with experience in these cases. Often if the truancy is accidental or unknown to the parent, counseling and a plan to get the child back to school are acceptable alternatives to jail time.
3. Sued Over Unpaid Debt
Debt collectors will often threaten jail time to intimidate you into paying bills, even when the debt is in dispute. Occasionally, they can actually get a judge to issue a bench warrant for a civil judgment on a debt. This can lead to your arrest. In some cases, people are arrested without even knowing they had a court date.
The ACLU took a particular interest in these debt cases, compiling a large report on debt criminalization in 2018, so contact a lawyer if you find yourself faced with debt collection charges. Since debt collectors cast a wide net, they may have overlooked critical legal obligations in your case. These small details may be enough to get the case thrown out with the help of the right lawyer.
4. Mistaken for Someone Else
Police misidentify the subjects of warrants more often than you may assume. Some of these cases make national headlines. Even if you haven’t committed a crime, you may be arrested if you share a first and last name or certain physical characteristics with the subject of an active warrant.
It’s crucial to contact a lawyer in these cases as well. Police departments must have safeguards in place to help prevent mistaken identity arrests, and the law recognizes that arresting an innocent person has a serious impact on their life.
Arrests can harm your finances, mental health and relationships. While the chances of being unexpectedly arrested are low, it’s still important to be aware of the risks. If you’re arrested or have an active warrant, make sure to contact a lawyer for help as soon as possible.