You find out there is a warrant for your arrest, stemming from a felony charge filed by the State Attorney.
Do you have to be arrested, or can the warrant be set aside? Most prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and even judges think the answer is yes.
But, under Florida law, the answer is no. You do not have to be arrested on a felony, and a court can legally set aside the arrest warrant.
Consider a summons – a form of legal process designed to notify one that a court case exists, and to bring that person into the personal jurisdiction of the court. That is exactly what an arrest warrant is: a form of process.
While there seems to be no current case law on this issue, there is one old case that discusses this matter. In Campbell v. County of Dade, 113 So. 708 (Fla. 3d DCA 1959), The Florida appellate court held as follows:
The fact that the petitioner came into the trial court without having a capias issued, or some process served upon him, would not affect the jurisdiction of the court to try him for the offenses admittedly within its jurisdiction. . . . An arrest warrant is the legal process by which jurisdiction is obtained over the person in a criminal proceeding.
The overwhelming weight of authority holds, and it is the opinion of this court, that if the defendant is physically present before the trial court on a valid charge by docket entry, warrant, information or indictment, the validity of the original arrest is immaterial, even though timely raised, so far as it regards the jurisdiction of the court to proceed with the case.
This case explains that so long as a defendant appears in court, that court has jurisdiction over that individual for the rest of the case.
This principle of law is particularly important for individuals who have never been previously arrested, and need to keep an arrest off their record for employment purposes, family purposes, or any other number of reasons. In these situations, the individual may file a motion to set aside the arrest warrant, and appear before the court. Once the defendant has appeared in court, the judge may legally set aside the warrant, and proceed with the rest of the case.