What to Do When Faced With an Arrest Warrant

police line

Any outstanding legal or criminal matters or warrants for arrest are serious and can have far-reaching consequences. Therefore, it is important to act appropriately when facing an arrest warrant and to retain an expert defence lawyer immediately.

When Does the Court Issue Arrest Warrants?

A Registrar, Magistrate, or Judge issues an order or a warrant of arrest to allow police to arrest the person named in the warrant.  A warrant of arrest is an official order to bring a person before the Court. There are different types of arrest warrants. The type of arrest warrant will depend on the specific stage during the police prosecution and the Court proceedings. 


Arrest warrants will only be issued if the Judicial Officer is satisfied a warrant is necessary. An arrest warrant will be issued if a person has to attend Court and if other avenues to get the person to Court have been exhausted.


The Registrar, Magistrate, or Judge can issue warrants for arrest in criminal proceedings before conviction, after the finding of guilt, conviction, or committal, after sentencing, or in special circumstances. Warrants can be issued under various Acts in specific circumstances and will be enforced by the Police and the Court and are outlined in the NSW Local Court Bench book. 

Arrest Warrants Issued Before Conviction in Criminal Proceedings





Criminal Procedure Act 1986

·       s 54: indictable charges

·       s 181: summary charges

Pre-Court warrant for arrest before a matter comes to Court because the police cannot locate the suspect

Issued by Registrar or an Authorised officer

s 54(3A) Criminal Procedure Act

At or during committal – Defendant failed to appear in Court

A Magistrate or Judge may issue a warrant for the arrest

s 181(3A) Criminal Procedure Act

Before conviction in summary proceedings – Defendant failed to appear in Court

A Magistrate or Judge may issue a warrant for the arrest

s 88 Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007

In AVO proceedings, to bring a defendant before the Court

Take into consideration the personal safety of the protected person. Order will be issued by a Magistrate or registrar of a court

s 77 Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act 1999

To bring an adult to Court where they are in custody but not bail refused

A Magistrate or registrar of a court may issue the order

s 42 Children (Detention Centres) Act 1987

To bring a juvenile to Court where they are not bail refused

A Magistrate or registrar of a court may issue the order



Arrest Warrants Issued After the Finding of Guilt, Conviction, or Committal in Criminal Proceedings






s 25(2) Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999

After finding guilt or conviction in matters being dealt with summarily – the defendant is absent

A Magistrate may issue an arrest warrant to bring the person to Court for sentence

s 109 Criminal Procedure Act

After committal

Warrant committing an accused to a correctional centre after committal for trial or sentence

s 100R(2), (2A) Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act

Failure to appear after suspected failure to comply with an intervention program

Where the Court is satisfied the person’s whereabouts are unknown, or if he or she fails to attend


Arrest Warrants Issued After Conviction in Criminal Proceedings





s 43(3)(a) and (b) Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act

To correct a sentence

Where the person does not appear or if the Court believes that they will not appear

s 41(1)(d) Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987

Alleged breach of bond/suspended sentence – juvenile

Where the Court is satisfied the person’s whereabouts are unknown, or if he or she fails to attend

s 107C(2), (3) Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act

Alleged breach of Community Corrections Orders

Where the Court is satisfied the person’s whereabouts are unknown, or if he or she fails to attend.

s 108C(2), (3) Crimes (Administration of Sentences) Act

Alleged breach of Conditional Release Orders

Where the Court is satisfied the person’s whereabouts are unknown, or if he or she fails to attend.

s 23 Children (Community Services Orders) Act 1987

Alleged breach of Community Service Orders – juveniles

When a person fails to attend


Arrest Warrants Issued under Other or Special Circumstances





s 229 Criminal Procedure Act

Where a witness fails to appear in response to a subpoena

Discretionary. Apply to the Court. Applicant must establish “no just or reasonable excuse” for failure to comply. The applicant of  a warrant must comply with the requirements for subpoenas in Ch 4, Pt 3

s 65 Local Court Act 2007

In application proceedings under Local Court Act 2007, Pt 4 – where a respondent fails to appear

Discretionary. Where a Magistrate is satisfied that the respondent had notice of the date, time, and place of the proceedings

s 114 Mental Health and Cognitive Impairment Forensic Provisions Act 2020

A patient escaped from a mental health facility and is outside NSW, or the person is the subject of an apprehension order under Pt 5, Div 9.

The Court is satisfied a credible person has shown reasonable cause



In summary, a pre-court arrest warrant is issued before any court proceedings start. An arrest warrant will also be issued to a defendant if the defendant has been formally charged and failed to appear in Court. The failure to appear in Court can be on the first court date or any other court date, provided the defendant is on bail and has not been excused from attending. 

Arrest warrants can be issued when a person sentenced breaches a good behaviour bond or fails to comply with or complete the conditions of their sentence. These sentence conditions can include avoiding community service or non-compliance with supervision requirements. 

A Magistrate or Judge will issue an arrest warrant for corrections of a sentence where there has been an error with the sentence that needs to be formally corrected in Court. The defendant needs to be present in Court for these proceedings. 

Warrants will not be issued for defendants in legal matters, punishable by a fine only. Arrest warrants will be issued if the Court deems them necessary in the circumstances of the case. 

What to do after a Warrant of Arrest was issued

How does a person find out if they have a warrant against their name? A person cannot access a public database or online search engine to check on outstanding warrants. A person, preferably a lawyer, has to make the necessary inquiries with the Police or the Courts to find out if a person has any outstanding warrants issued against them. 


The Court will issue a warrant of arrest, and the Police and Court databases will be updated to include the details of the person and the active warrant. System notifications will notify a police officer conducting a routine check on a person’s identity and history of any outstanding warrants. Police officers will start to locate the person and execute the outstanding warrant or warrants. 


The police enforce the warrant of arrest, and they will:


·      Visit the person’s residential address, or

·      Enquire with family members, employers, or any other relevant people

·      Place the person under arrest when they locate the person

·      Escort the person to the police station

·      Detain the person until the person is brought before the Court


A person will be brought before the Court within a reasonable timeframe, usually on the same day or the following day. The person will have the opportunity to apply for bail once they are brought before the Magistrate. If a person does not apply for bail, they will remain in custody until their legal matter has been finalised or until they make a bail application. The Court will decide if the person should be granted bail or not.  The Court can refuse bail and hold the person with an outstanding warrant in custody for an extended period. 


What Should A Person Do If A Warrant Was Issued Against Them?


Warrants do not just go away; they have serious implications for a person. It is important to read the warrant to ensure it meets the basic requirements when police enforce the warrant with an arrest. The warrant should correctly state the alleged offender’s name and address; it should state the name of the applicant for the warrant, their rank, registration number, and station. The police warrant should also state that any police officer may arrest the person named on the warrant. It should also state the offence allegedly committed. 


It will be in a person’s best interest not to attempt to evade the police, bribe the police officer or argue the warrant. This might result in new charges. It is best to comply with the warrant and, if possible, hand yourself into police custody. This will increase a person’s chance of getting bail in Court and it may indicate that the person accepts responsibility. It is in the person’s best interest to retain legal representation and guidance immediately.


Anything a person says or does in police custody may be used as evidence in the case if the person has been charged with an offence. People can jeopardise their case, and it is critical they obtain legal advice once an arrest warrant has been issued. A person needs to understand police procedure and know their rights before engaging in an interview following an arrest. 


Duration of Arrest Warrants


Section 237 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 explains the duration of arrest warrants. A warrant of arrest is not returnable at any particular time and is valid until it expires. The specific period when a warrant to arrest an offender will expire in relation to the offence is: 


·      Indictable offences

§ These offences are punishable by imprisonment for life or 25 years or more. A warrant for arrest will remain valid for 50 years

§ These offences are punishable by imprisonment for less than 25 years and not less than 5 years and a warrant for arrest remains valid for 30 years

§ These offences are not punishable by imprisonment for 5 years or more (if the offender is not a child). A warrant for arrest will remain valid for 15 years

§ These offences are not punishable by imprisonment for 5 years or more (if the offender is a child and a warrant for arrest remains valid for 10 years

·      Summary Offences

§ Where the offender is not a child, the warrant for arrest remains valid for 10 years

§ Where the offender is a child, the warrant for arrest remains valid for 10 years


A warrant for arrest issued to a convicted person to bring the person before a Court for sentencing expires at the end of 30 years after it is issued. A new warrant for arrest can be issued again for the same offence or offences as per a previous arrest warrant. 


However, a warrant to arrest a witness in a specific case must be returnable at a stated date, time, and place. The warrant to arrest a witness may be returned and cancelled, and another warrant can be issued if the witness is not arrested before the warrant must be returned. 


Fleeing Across State or Border Lines


Police can commence proceedings against a person in any part of Australia according to Section 24 of the Service and Execution of Process Act 1992. The police can, for instance issue an arrest warrant in NSW, and it can be enforced in Queensland or Victory, and it stays in force until the person is arrested.  


If a person is arrested for an offence in another State or Territory, the person will be brought before the local Magistrate. The Magistrate will then send the offender back to the State where the crime occurred. The offender will have to spend time in local custody until extradited. 


Seek legal advice if a warrant of arrest has been issued. Contact us at Lyons Law Group to obtain expert legal advice to act on your behalf.   

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  • Mohammad Khan | Criminal Defence Lawyer

    Mohammad Khan is the Principal Solicitor of Lyons Law Group. After graduating with a Bachelor of Aviation from the University of New South Wales, Mohammad took a keen interest in the law. He began training in criminal law under the tutelage of Australia’s leading criminal lawyer Adam Houda and studied law at the University of Sydney.