What is a jail “walk through” in Travis County?
A criminal defense attorney can often make advance arrangements for a person to surrender himself on an arrest warrant* without spending any time in jail. This is accomplished by seeking pre-approval of a personal bond from a county judge, district judge, or magistrate judge. A person doing a walk through is still technically arrested but the pre-approved bond allows his or her immediate release.
A defendant can also make arrangements to do a walk through to clear a warrant using the services of a bail bonding company to post surety bond.
*This FAQ does not apply to arrest warrants based on failure to appear for Class C misdemeanors (e.g., traffic tickets).
Why is the arrest necessary?
For a jailable offense (a felony or Class A or B misdemeanor), an arrest is required to clear an arrest warrant, which is necessary in turn to resolve a case. Travis County judges typically will not allow a case to be put on the docket when there is an outstanding arrest warrant and most prosecutors are too busy with cases that are on the docket to spend time working on off-docket matters.
Consequently, when there is an outstanding arrest warrant, a walk-through arrest is usually the first step in getting a case resolved . This is true even if the case will ultimately be dismissed.
Many people mistakenly believe that a judge will dismiss a warrant that was issued on the basis of false accusations or incomplete evidence. While those are great defenses against a criminal prosecution, they are not relevant to the legal validity of an arrest warrant. Believe it or not, the concept of basic fairness simply is not a factor in the law applicable to arrest warrants in Texas. A criminal complaint is the only evidence required for a valid arrest warrant to be issued.
Former governor Rick Perry did a walk through when he was indicted for Abuse of Official Capacity and Coercion of a Public Servant. Perry scheduled his walk through, and used the opportunity to hold a miniature press conference.
Meanwhile, the public servant that Perry was accused of coercing was Rosemary Lehmberg. Ms. Lehmberg was herself arrested for D.W.I. in the middle of the night and was obviously not prepared to deal with the resulting attention from the press.
Under rare circumstances, when an attorney is retained before a criminal investigation is complete, it is possible to prevent an arrest warrant from ever being issued. In those situations, the lawyer negotiates an advance agreement with the prosecuting agency and persuades the judge to issue a summons rather than an arrest warrant when a criminal complaint or indictment is filed against the defendant.
What happens in a walk through?
When I help a client complete a jail walk through, after I have made the necessary arrangements for personal bond, we choose a convenient time and go together to the Travis County Jail’s Central Booking desk on West 10th Street. I will explain the procedure, take care of all of the paperwork, explain any bond conditions, and expedite the process to the extent possible.
In Family Violence cases, the judge that reviews the allegations sometimes enters an Emergency Protective Order. When this happens, release on the bond may be delayed for an extra hour or more until a magistrate is available to admonish the defendant. Another type of delay can occur when the judge requires that the defendant wear a GPS ankle monitor as a condition of bond. When this happens the defendant may be held at Central Booking until the GPS vendor arrives to install the device.
Other issues that may block, delay, or complicate a release are unpaid traffic tickets, an active warrant from another jurisdiction, an ICE immigration hold, or a parole hold.