Friday, January 27, 2006

Facing an arrest warrant

Here is one piece of advice if you are facing a criminal case: Take it seriously.
If you won't, it will spell real trouble for you.
Here is what happened two days ago.
I was doing the usual pleading work at the office when we got a call that some Makati police were in the building armed with an arrest warrant to be served upon someone working in the office.
Well, not a client of mine, and she's somebody I don't know. Gotta move on.
Too bad to be served an arrest warrant, I thought.
I then realized from the secretary, Mary Ann, that the call was made to our office because the co-employees in the department where the person to be arrested was working didn't know what to do.
At that point, they were holding off the policemen outside, in the meantime.
I guess they were trying to hide their co-worker from being arrested, and if possible, slip her out.
But the police already said they know the "subject" was inside the building because they saw her daily time record.
Ping Remollo, our head lawyer decided to discuss the matter with the policemen, so the cops went to our office and showed the arrrest warrant.
The warrant, we learend was issued by the judge when the person, who is facing a bouncing checks case, failed to attend the previous hearing.
My guess was the judge was pissed off when the accused did not show up in the hearing without any notice at all.
Out of humanitarian consdierations, since it was already past 5 p.m., we requested the cops to "defer" serving the arrest warrant until the next day so that the accused wouldn't have to spend the night in jail.
The policeman was understandably reluctant but after some discussion he agreed, on the condition that the very first thing the following morning, the accused must be brought to the Makati police station.
By the way, the Makati police has a brand new four-story building along Ayala Ave. and Yakal Streets. It is by far the most modern police station in the country. The police station can be mistaken for a commercial center.
Anyway, Ping Remollo asked me to handle the matter.
After the cops went away, we summoned the accused.
We discussed the matter, told her she's lived another day, but the following morning, she has to go to the police station to satisfy the arrest warrant.
This is not supposed to be a difficult thing. The easy solution is to bail. There's a bail amount stated in the arrest warrant.
The problem with our subject: she's got nothing. I didn't ask her, but my impression was that she's deep in debt. I noticed no one even volunteered to shoulder the bond.
If you don't pay the bond, what's the other option?
The alternative was, to ask the judge to recall the warrant. That's a tedious process.
Call it by any other name--motion to lift the warrant, motion for reconsideration, etc.--- the objective is to ask the judge to render the warrant of no force, so the subject (accused) can go free.
I prepared an urgent motion to lift the warrant of arrest to be filed the next day. It was by "special appearance" since I was filing the motion for that particular incident only.
So the following day, the accused, her spouse and I went to the Makati police station, at the fourth floor where the warrant and subpoena section is located.
First problem of the day: the policeman who served the warrant was not in the office and we had to wait.
While waiting at the police station, I already anticipated a major problem: what if the judge is absent today?
Anyway I went ahead to court, and instructed the spouse of the accused to have the police make certificate of detention. As soon as this is done, I told the spouse to rush the certifcate to court so I can attach it to the motion.
At around noon time, in the Makati court, my hunch was accurate. The judge was not there and was to report only in the afternoon.
Anyway, I served a copy of gthe motion to the prosecutor and went to the sala of the judge and talked to the clerk of court. I made a direct request.
This was an urgent motion to lift the warrant. The accused is detained. I requested if possible, the judge recall the warrant that very day! Otherwise, the accused will have to spend overnight in detention. "Maki-usap lang kay judge."
The clerk of court was accomodating and said he will imediately give the judge a call and ask her decision.
Good thing the judge was accomodating and recalled the warrant.
It was already past 3 p.m. and the accused who was technically under detention at the police station was already worried she would have to spend the night under detention.
When the recall order was released we rushed it to the police station, and before 5 p.m., the accused was free.
We undertook the longer, tedious route to have the accused released.
There is one lesson here. Do not take for granted these criminal court hearings. If you are an accused, attend the hearings. If you can't, call your lawyer beforehand. Don't piss off the judge.
The accused was very thankful. She avoided an overnight stay in jail. She dodged the bail bond.
For me, 'twas all in a day's work.

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