A police officer may arrest a person when they have probable cause or a warrant to do so. Arrest means the officer can detain the person by placing them in handcuffs, transport them to the police station for booking and place them in a jail cell. After or during an arrest, there may be different ways for an officer to conduct a search related to the arrest.

What is a “Search Incident to Arrest”?

A search incident to arrest can occur during the arrest or shortly thereafter. Once an officer has decided to make a lawful arrest, they can search the arrested person for weapons and anything that may harm the officer or the arrested person during transport.

The officer may also search the immediate surroundings of the arrested person. In searching, the officer may recover weapons and any other evidence related to the crime the officer has probable cause or a warrant to believe has been committed by the arrested person.

An inventory search can occur when the arrested person arrives at the police station where the officer may search the arrested person more thoroughly for all items on their person before placing them in a holding cell. Items that may be recovered at the station can include any hidden objects, paper, or illegal substances.

What is an Arrest Records Search?

Anyone, including private citizens, can conduct a search of another person’s criminal record. These records may be available online for free in many states by searching for a person by name. These records can include the following information:

  • Date and location of arrest;
  • The city or county of where the alleged crime took place;
  • The nature of the crime including domestic violence, property crime, and whether the crime is a felony;
  • Whether the case is still pending including hearing or trial dates;
  • Whether the arrested person was convicted of the crime; and/or
  • Sentencing information including whether the arrested person was jailed or is currently on probation.

What are Warrant Checks?

Anyone could have an outstanding warrant out for their arrest. An officer who lawfully stops a person may check police records or call their local station to conduct a records check to see if  the stopped person has any outstanding arrest warrants.

If there is a warrant, the officer may then arrest the person for that warrant. Others may have access to whether a person has an outstanding warrant. In some states, this may be accessed publicly.

In many states, however, only authorized persons may see if an outstanding warrant exists such as prosecutors, police officers, court personnel, or defense attorneys representing a person who suspects a warrant exists for their arrest.

Can I Find Out if a Warrant Exists for My Arrest?

You may be able to discover if a warrant exists by contacting the local police or searching for your own arrest records. However, many state and local agencies do not allow public access to see if an outstanding warrant exists. If you do contact the local police regarding a warrant, they may also arrest you after they discover a warrant exists.

Do I Need an Attorney?

If you think you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest, a criminal lawyer may be able to help find out and advise the best way to resolve the warrant before you are arrested. An attorney can also help you understand whether your rights have been violated by an illegal search or an illegal arrest. Attorneys can help you expunge your criminal record if you are eligible.