If You Have A Warrant Can You Just Pay It? Why You Shouldn’t (Do This Instead)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Criminal Records | April 29, 2024

Man standing next to a police officer with a warrant trying to pay for to have the warrant dropped asks if you have a warrant can you just pay it and how much does it cost to lift a bench warrant?

Many people who think they may have a warrant wonder, if you have a warrant can you just pay it?

For many warrants, making a payment won’t make it go away, especially if it has been issued in relation to a criminal case.So you should contact a lawyer instead (after verifying that the warrant has been issued).

But money does factor into the equation when bond is set for other types of charges or when outstanding fines need to be paid.

The first thing to do is to check to see if there is an actual warrant out for your arrest, or if a bench warrant has been issued. This can be easily done using a free, name based criminal records search.

Once you know that the warrant is active, you can move forward to the resolution stage…but you should know that you simply can’t write a check and make it go away.

It all depends on the type of warrant and the situation involved.

The guide answers the question, if you have a warrant can you just pay for it, and explains how to deal with various types of warrants.

If You Have a Warrant Can You Just Pay It?

If you can’t find any information about an outstanding warrant online, you should contact the local county court clerk or sheriff’s office to find out if the warrant exists, and to determine what kind of warrant it is.

What if it’s an arrest warrant, if you have a warrant can you just pay for it?

Screenshot of the Code of Criminal Procedure in Texas about Arrest Warrants with yellow arrow pointing to the requisites of a warrant.

You shouldn’t attempt to simply pay off an arrest warrant. These are issued based on probable evidence and an attorney should be contacted.

However, if you don’t have a lawyer to guide you through the process, or don’t need one because it’s a simple matter of failure to appear (bench warrant), the following steps can help:

  • Obtain legal counsel…get a lawyer
  • Allow your lawyer to arrange a time and place for you to turn yourself in
  • Wait for your lawyer to arrange your first hearing. Should your first court appearance happen quickly, you may be able to avoid being taken into custody

Depending on the charges relating to the warrant, a lawyer may be able to resolve it by:

  • Making an arrangement on your behalf, which allows you to pay the original fine
  • Working out a different arrangement that resolves the original charge that led to the warrant
  • Scheduling a court appearance during which you can plead your case

Some jail time may be unavoidable despite the fact that you’ve turned yourself in.

It is unlikely that you’ll be held for more than 72 hours because hearings tend to happen fast. However, weekends and holidays may prolong the process.2

Do I Have to Pay Money to Clear a Warrant?

If you’ve committed a felony crime, a payment won’t do anything to clear the warrant. Should the warrant be related to unpaid traffic tickets or fine, it may be possible to pay the outstanding money to clear the warrant, when you appear in court.3

Keep in mind that choosing to try and resolve an outstanding bench warrant by paying the fine attached to it, will be viewed as an admission of guilt. This means extra surcharges will be added to the original fine amount.1

If the warrant was issued for a traffic violation, and you don’t pay the added charges by the deadline, your license might be suspended.

What Is the Traffic Law in the US?

Each state in the US has its own traffic laws, with many states incorporating extra regulations that must be adhered to.

For instance, it is illegal to use your phone while driving in the state of Georgia. Also, in contrast to other countries, traffic lights in America are usually erected behind intersections. And the majority of 4-way stop signs favor the first vehicle to stop at the intersection.

Screenshot of Michigan State Police website page about Traffic Laws with yellow arrow pointing to its Frequently Asked Questions.

Every state has its own traffic laws and penalties for breaking those those. If a driver is issued a citation but fails to appear or pay it, a bench warrant is often the next step.

Furthermore, speed limits vary between states.

Almost every state has passed a law that enforces the wearing of seat belts but, in 24 of these states, not wearing a seat belt is not a primary offense.

For these minor infractions, usually a citation is issued, not a warrant. Warrants are used to physically detain someone.

How Much Does It Cost To Lift a Bench Warrant?

So, where possible, how much does it cost to lift a bench warrant?

There is no set amount, but once you are informed that a bench warrant has been issued, you should arrange to pay any applicable bond amount.

If a fine was payable before the documentation was completed, you will most likely be required to settle the fine as well as the bond.

If you cannot afford to pay off both, the court may be persuaded to allow you to make a payment arrangement.4

What Happens When You Turn Yourself in for a Bench Warrant?

Before you start preparing to turn yourself in, you need to know that a bench warrant can only legally be issued after you have failed to make a scheduled court appearance, or have violated other court orders.

If a judge ordered you to appear in court and you failed to do so, a warrant will also be issued. Before you turn yourself in, you should be in contact with your lawyer as well as a bond person in case you are asked to post bond.

After your lawyer has arranged a suitable time for you to hand yourself over to police, a court appearance will be scheduled. If the charge against you is a misdemeanor, the judge may decide to lift the warrant. But if you have a bad track record when it comes to attending court appointments, or if you have been charged with a serious offense, the warrant will not be lifted.5

Furthermore, you may be held in custody without the option of posting bond, especially if the judge considers you to be a flight risk.

Can I Just Pay a Fine to Get Rid of a Misdemeanor Traffic Warrant?

A civil infraction ticket is not a criminal offense, which means you can just pay the fine which will resolve the issue.

However, if you are issued a misdemeanor traffic warrant, you will have to appear in court. In some cases, your lawyer may be allowed to appear on your behalf.

Screenshot of Reno Justice Court website page about traffic warrants with yellow arrow pointing to resolving a traffic warrant.

Traffic warrants are generally issued if a series of infractions are ignored.

If you try to make a misdemeanor offense go away by paying the fine, you will eventually be arrested because of a misdemeanor traffic warrant. You cannot clear this type of warrant by making a payment, because misdemeanor offenses carry jail time of up to twelve months.6

Where Did The Term Misdemeanor Come From?

In modern times, attributing the term ‘misdemeanor’ to an offense means that the offense itself is minor. However, in history it meant anything from murder to stepping on someone’s toe.

Misdemeanor is derived from ‘demeanor’ and means poor, or unacceptable behavior. Because one term was derived from the other, it was used as the definition of bad manners as well as criminality during the 18th century.

As the centuries passed, the term continued to take on varied meanings, and today it is used to describe lesser crimes in the US, while it is not used in law proceedings in the UK anymore.

What if I Cannot Afford to Pay for an Arrest Warrant?

If you don’t keep up with a payment arrangement to settle your arrest warrant, you will be handed over to a debt collection agency. Extra fees and costs will then be added to the outstanding amount, for which you will also be liable.

How To Get a General Sessions Bench Warrant Lifted

General sessions offenses equate to severe punishments which range from a couple of years on probation to life sentences.

How to get a general sessions bench warrant lifted

A general sessions bench warrant means you will be arrested and booked.7 You will have to stay in jail until your bond is set, but if you have been charged with a crime that carries a life sentence, you will have to plead your case before a state court judge.

You must employ a criminal defense attorney to help guide you through the process. The attorney will file the appropriate motion with the court and keep you informed throughout. During your first appearance in court, you will be informed when your trial will start. Keep in mind that it could take up to a year for a trial to begin.

Screenshot of the Tennessee State Courts website page about their different court forms with yellow arrow pointing to the Arrest Warrant form.

If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you must appear in court in person during your first and subsequent hearings. During your second appearance, the decision for trial or plea will be made.

During the final deposition, one of three things may happen:

    • The case may be dismissed
    • You may plead guilty
    • If you plead not guilty, a date will be set for your trial8

How To Get a Fugitive Warrant Lifted

If you commit a crime in your home state, and you decide to flee to another, a judge will issue a fugitive warrant for your arrest.

As a fugitive, you will be extradited back to your own state as soon as possible, after you are arrested.9 You won’t be able to rely on time limitations because it won’t apply to your situation. Furthermore, if the judge is not sympathetic towards your situation, your jail time will be extended, and it is possible that the harshest sentence available may be imposed.

How To Get a Fugitive Warrant Lifted

If you have a normal outstanding warrant and it is changed to a fugitive warrant, you will need the assistance of a lawyer to get you through the court process when you are arrested.

Your lawyer may be able to negotiate a deal but if they fail to do so, they will support and defend you during your ensuing trial. It is also possible that your lawyer may be able to get the warrant lifted by getting the charges against you dismissed.

Will dismissed charges still be recorded on your criminal history file? Dismissed charges can show up on a background check as part of the criminal record.

What Is The Fugitive Felon Act?

The main purpose of the Fugitive Felon Act is to allow the federal government to lend a hand in locating and arresting fugitives.

However, this Act doesn’t replace the extradition processes of any state, and these processes kick in once a fugitive has been apprehended.

If You Have a Warrant Can You Just Pay It? How To Get a Warrant Dropped

The question, if you have a warrant can you just pay it, isn’t a simple one. There are many factors to consider when you’re trying to get a warrant dropped, and the process should start with you contacting a lawyer for help.

Getting rid of a warrant only happens in one of two ways: getting arrested or turning yourself in.10

Once you have turned yourself in, you will appear in court and spend some time in jail while the process runs its course.

However, if the bench warrant is a minor matter, you may be able to post bond and make sure to show up at the next court date.

How To Resolve an Arrest Warrant (Normal Warrant)

An arrest warrant is also known as a ‘normal warrant,’ and it is typically issued when no plea has been heard and no final judgment handed down.

Screenshot of Ramsey County Sheriff's Office website page about arrest warrants with yellow arrow pointing to resolving an arrest warrant.

Resolving an arrest warrant means turning yourself into the law enforcement authorities.

There are different ways to resolve an arrest warrant,11 which include the following:

  • Paying a bond amount to facilitate another court date. The bond can either be a surety bond or a cash bond.
  • Paying the outstanding fine or making a payment arrangement to pay off the fine.
  • You can also pay the fine by means of a cashier’s check or a money order, but keep in mind that a conviction will be added to your record.
  • If you pay the fine online, a conviction will be added to your record.

How To Resolve a Capias Warrant

If you have entered a plea and a final judgment has been reached, but you fail to keep up with payments or direct court orders, a capias warrant will be issued.12

Resolving this type of warrant will require you to follow one of the following steps:

  • Paying the outstanding fine or arranging a payment plan
  • Using a cashier’s check or mail order to settle the fine
  • Paying the fine online13

How To Find Out If You Have a Warrant

The easiest way to determine whether you have an outstanding warrant is to:

  • Do an online search on the local sheriff’s department or court’s website
  • Do a federal court record search
  • Do a criminal background check14

Do Warrants Show Up on Background Checks?

If you are looking for work while on probation, it is highly likely that your potential employer will request a background check on you. During a standard check, past and current warrants won’t show up, but a level 2 check might reveal them.

Also remember that criminal background checks do not usually bring up warrant history, but civil background checks might.15

When Was the First Background Check Done?

In 1908 an apprentice accidentally killed a fellow worker, in what was the first recorded case of negligent hiring. The apprentice didn’t lose his job.

By 1933, the law changed and wherever someone was hired, their history played a part in whether they got the job or not.

By the 1950s, the courts got involved and stated that employers must be held responsible for employees who are found to be unfit for work after they had been hired.

Since then, background checks have become immensely popular and, in some sectors, mandatory.

Will a Probation Warrant Show Up on a Background Check?

Can a records check reveal a probation warrant? Well, it can, if it has been processed through the court.

Do Traffic Warrants Appear on Background Checks?

It is not common for traffic warrants to pop up during a standard background check.

However, during a comprehensive check, they may come up.16 In general, civil, arrest, and bench warrants are more likely to be found during extensive searches.

Can You Pass a Background Check With a Warrant? (If You Have a Warrant Can You Just Pay It?)

If a warrant does appear along with other information during your pre-employment background check, it doesn’t automatically mean that you won’t get the job. It also doesn’t necessarily mean that you haven’t passed the background check.

Warrants that have been issued by a court and already executed, will allow you to pass the background check. And depending on how serious the charge was, an employer might still give you the job. Warrants can cause a lot of anxiety, especially when you are struggling to find a job, but with the help of a good criminal defense lawyer, they can often be quashed or lifted.

Just remember that it is not only a matter of ‘if you have a warrant can you just pay it,’ but a process that must be followed to the letter if you want to get rid of a warrant.

Frequently Asked Questions About if You Have a Warrant Can You Just Pay It

If You Have a Warrant Can You Just Pay It?

More often than not, you won’t be able to get rid of a warrant by paying it. Having a warrant issued against you means that you will have to appear in court, either after turning yourself in or after being arrested.

How Can I Find Out if I Have a Warrant?

It won’t always be clear whether a warrant has been issued for your arrest, but there are several ways to check. Official websites are usually the fastest way to go about checking whether you have a warrant, but you can also approach the local court or police station. Just note that if there is an outstanding bench warrant against you, approaching the police may result in an immediate arrest.

Do I Have a Warrant for My Arrest?

If you have failed to make a court appearance regarding a prior violation, it is most likely that a warrant will be issued for your arrest. If you are unsure of whether the warrant has already been issued, you can do an online warrant search, or ask your lawyer to do it on your behalf. You can also get in touch with the local police department or court.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Warrant?

It takes only a couple of hours to get a simple warrant, whereas complex warrants may take several months to obtain.

How Long Do You Stay in Jail for a Warrant?

An outstanding bench warrant may lead to you being held in jail until your trial is over. Once you have seen a judge after being arrested, and you can’t pay the set bond amount, you will be held until the commencement of your trial.


1FMX Fiscal Management. (2023). Warrants. FMX Fiscal Management. <https://fmx.cpa.texas.gov/fm/pubs/payment/pay_pro_pol/index.php?s=ppp_intro&p=warrants>

2McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. (n.d.). How Can I Get Rid of a Warrant without Going to Jail? |McKenzie Law. McKenzie Law Firm, P.C. Retrieved from <https://www.davidmckenzielawfirm.com/outstanding-warrant/how-can-i-get-rid-of-a-warrant-wit out-going-to-jail/>

3Rivera, J. (2021, April 27). How to Get Rid of an Arrest Warrant. Legal Match. Retrieved from <https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/how-to-get-rid-of-an-arrest-warrant.html>

4Aizman, D. (2021, December 9). The Complete Guide To Getting Your Bench Warrant Cleared. Aizman Law Firm. Retrieved from <https://aizmanlaw.com/get-bench-warrant-cleared/>

5Greg Hill & Associates. (n.d.). So You Face a Bench Warrant? What Should You Do Now? Redondo Beach, California Bench Warrant Lawyers Greg Hill & Associates. Greg Hill & Associates. Retrieved from <https://www.greghillassociates.com/so-you-face-a-bench-warrant.html>

6Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys. (n.d.). Do you have a warrant for a traffic offense? (Stay of out jail!). Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys. Retrieved from <https://www.notafraidtowin.com/what-should-i-do-about-a-traffic-warrant/>

7Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. (2023). General Sessions Court. Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. <https://www.tncourts.gov/courts/general-sessions-courts>

8Usry, R. (n.d.). South Carolina General Sessions Case Process In Spartanburg. Holland & Usry, P.A. Retrieved from <https://www.bhollandlawfirm.com/library/after-arrest-follow-a-south-carolina-general-sessions-c se.cfm>

9FBI. (2023). Fugitives. Most Wanted. <https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/fugitives>

10Office of Justice Programs. (2023). Out county enforcement serving warrants making arrests. Office of Justice Programs. <https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/out-county-enforcement-serving-warrants-making-arrests>

11Seattle Police Department. (2023). 6.280 – Warrant Arrests and Pre-Planned Arrest Operations. Seattle. <https://www.seattle.gov/police-manual/title-6---arrests-search-and-seizure/6280---warrant-arrests-and-pre-planned-arrest-operations>

12LIS VIRGINIA LAW. (2023). § 19.2-76. Execution and return of warrant, capias or summons; arrest outside county or city where charge is to be tried. LIS. <https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/title19.2/chapter7/section19.2-76/>

13City of Webster. (n.d.). What do I do if I Have a Warrant? City of Webster. Retrieved from <https://cityofwebster.com/991/What-do-I-do-if-I-Have-a-Warrant>

14StateRecords.org. (n.d.). Warrant Search. StateRecords.org. Retrieved from <https://staterecords.org/warrant>

15Checkr. (2021, September 30). Do Warrants Show Up on Your Background Check? Checkr. Retrieved from <https://checkr.com/blog/warrants-show-up-on-background-check>

16Washington State Patrol. (2023). Crime. CRIMINAL HISTORY. <https://www.wsp.wa.gov/crime/criminal-history/>

17UTAH Department of Public Safety. (2023). Search for Warrants. Warrants. <https://secure.utah.gov/warrants/index.html>

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