A Woman In Danger?
September 5, 2008 10:59 AM   Subscribe

My friend, who hasn't lived in Texas for decades, was dismayed to learn that there was a longstanding warrant for her arrest in Texas for a traffic violation she could not have committed. The warrant's for not paying a fine. (She thinks someone stole her driver's license and identity.)

She's refusing to pay the fine on the grounds that it is absurd and would cost too much to fight in court. She wants to know if it's safe for her to drive in other states, or whether she runs the risk of being arrested in states like Minnesota or New York. Do police look up this kind of information on a routine stop for speeding?
posted by johngoren to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Anecdotal: around Christmas 1996, my aunt's then-boyfriend was arrested during a routine traffic stop in Texas for an outstanding warrant in Utah. I do not know what the warrant was for, but I know she bailed him out the next morning.

This seems like the kind of thing that is best taken care of, one way or the other. It's entirely possible that, if ignored, it could bite her in the ass. I'm certain that being arrested would be more of a hassle than resolving the issue now.
posted by owtytrof at 11:08 AM on September 5, 2008

Another anecdote -- the person getting off my flight the other day was arrested as he walked out the gate by a cop waiting for him. From what I overheard, it was due to a warrant related to his car (so technically, it could've been a more major crime. But still, warrants should be taken seriously.)
posted by inigo2 at 11:12 AM on September 5, 2008

Yeah, warrant databases are shared between states, and it's likely that the police will run her name for matches to the database during a routine traffic stop. So she's certainly in danger. It's going to be a hassle, and it might be expensive, but it's probably best that your friend talks with a lawyer about sorting this out ASAP.

It's absurd, and it's unfair, and it sucks. But shit happens.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:15 AM on September 5, 2008

johngoren: She's refusing to pay the fine on the grounds that it is absurd and would cost too much to fight in court.

This strikes me as a bad idea for several reasons. This ticket shouldn't be that costly to fight - if she hasn't lived in Texas for years, and can demonstrate it, doesn't she have paperwork to prove it easily? The most costly thing would be traveling to Texas, I guess. Just "refusing to pay" is usually a bad idea in general. Isn't it possible for her to call the court that issued the ticket and explain the situation? What do they normally do in these situations? Surely they have a process for situations of confusion or identity theft.

Do police look up this kind of information on a routine stop for speeding?

Yes. I'm no expert, but it seems as though interstate computer networks have been hooking up a lot over the last few years. It's also been my experience, here in Denver anyway, that cops love serving any warrant they possibly can. It's really a bad idea to drive around with a warrant out, even in another state. In the eyes of a police officer, who may or may not know or be able to tell why there's a warrant out, the absolute worst thing they can do in that situation is let a potential criminal go free when there's a clear order not to.

If she thinks someone stole her identity, then she needs to start working on fixing it. She should talk to a lawyer about where to start. Fixing this warrant issue will probably be part of that; she can at least call the court that issued the ticket and ask them what they normally do in situations of identity theft.

How did she find out about this ticket and warrant?
posted by koeselitz at 11:15 AM on September 5, 2008

I want to say again: "refusing to pay" and simply letting this slide is not an option. She can refuse to pay, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have to go through the system and clear her name - there's a procedure she'll have to go through to not get arrested.
posted by koeselitz at 11:17 AM on September 5, 2008

Do police look up this kind of information on a routine stop for speeding?

Routine stops always include checks for outstanding warrants - from anywhere - and that's how an awful lot of people are arrested. Ignoring this is a bad, bad, bad idea.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:19 AM on September 5, 2008

Generally, I've heard that states do not share basic traffic information databases for routine traffic stops. That being said, it is certainly possible, and anything more than a basic traffic stop would very likely turn up the heat on the situation. And I strongly believe that in the near future this type of information will be widely shared as the technology catches up.

She really needs to look into this, especially if she believes someone stole her driver's license and identity. How did she find out about the warrant?
posted by shinynewnick at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2008

Has your friend filed anything about identity theft from when she lived in Texas?

Most courts are online and easily called, certainly she could contact them and obtain a copy of the ticket that initiated all of this, you are required to sign your ticket when the officer presents it, should be able to compare her signature to the one on the ticket.

Otherwise, yes states do share warrant info.
posted by clanger at 11:29 AM on September 5, 2008

Yes, states share a lot more information than they used to, even motor vehicle warrants and suspensions. Next time she's stopped, she could find out that her current license is suspended and get slapped with a hefty fine (and have her car impounded) for driving with a suspended license. Her car insurance company will not be amused by this.

If there is a way she can prove that she couldn't have committed the original violation, she should fight it, and notify the state about the identity theft.
posted by jenbeee at 11:49 AM on September 5, 2008

I got pulled over in Kansas for doing 70 in a 70 [sic] and looking rather tan, with outstanding warrants for some penny-ante traffic bullshit. My girlfriend (now wife) had to drive from St. Louis with bail money to get me out.

You do the math.
posted by notsnot at 11:58 AM on September 5, 2008

She's refusing to pay the fine on the grounds that it is absurd and would cost too much to fight in court.

It sounds like she's made up her mind regardless of what the possibilities are. I suggest she intentionally speed until she is pulled over to find out.
posted by rhizome at 12:48 PM on September 5, 2008

Has she heard that the intertubes and computers are making the world more connected? Even if that information isn't shared today, it could be in the future.

Take care of it now. It's a lot easier to do this from a lawyer's office than from a jail cell if she's picked up on the warrant.
posted by 26.2 at 12:58 PM on September 5, 2008

I would suggest that your friend find out which judge issued the warrant and write a letter to the court laying out her case. It's likely that there are ways to rectify this - there's zero probability that this has never happened before. I say work from the top down.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:29 PM on September 5, 2008

Another anecdote...Mr. Adams and I were driving home one night when we were pulled over for (supposedly) making an illegal right turn on a red light. (There was no sign in place stating "No Right Turn on Red." The arresting cop told us that there used to be a sign there, it had gotten knocked down in an accident and hadn't yet been replaced.) Anyway, during this frivolous stop, Mr. Adams' record came back with a bench warrant for his arrest due to an unpaid ticket for an expired license plate. He was handcuffed and hustled off to the local prison. I raced to an ATM and got the $200 bail, and the two of us spent the rest of night rooting through boxes in the attic looking through the paper files and records we'd haphazardly stashed. We eventually found the money order receipt for the expired license plate ticket Mr. Adams had paid way back before his deadline. He appeared in court with his evidence, and the judge agreed that he'd been improperly arrested since he'd paid his fine, but before he could leave he had to pay $200 in court costs.

So, bottom line, Mr. Adams was completely innocent (the judge agreed that you couldn't be cited for a "no turn on red" sign that was no longer in place), but it still cost us $400. Depending upon the fine involved, it might be more costly for your friend to hire an attorney than to just pay the judgment, no matter how unjust it is.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:36 PM on September 5, 2008

she is a fool if her plan is to just ignore this on moral grounds. it does not matter how right she is - there is a freaking warrant out for her arrest.

your friend is an idiot if she does not deal with this.
posted by Flood at 6:52 AM on September 6, 2008

« Older Pimp My Pavilion.   |   to rewrite or not to rewrite? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.