An arrest warrant is a legal document that gives law enforcement the authority to arrest the person that is identified in the warrant. An arrest warrant may be issued for a person arrest if:
- There is probable cause that a person has committed a crime. Valid arrest orders must sufficiently identify the person suspected of the crime, identify what crime they are suspected of, and be based upon sworn testimony or an affidavit of an authorized individual; or
- The person fails to appear at a required court hearing, i.e. a “bench warrant.” Bench warrants are warrants that are issued by a judge or court to arrest a person to bring them before the court for failing to appear in court;
Arrest warrants may also be issued in connection with the commission of an ongoing crime or investigation.
As noted above, if there is a warrant out for your arrest, law enforcement may detain you and place you in their custody, as well as conduct a search incident to your lawful arrest. Searches incident to a lawful arrest include the arrested person’s immediate body and surroundings in plain view. It is important to note that an arrest warrant is different from a search warrant.
Search warrants allow law enforcement to investigate a specified location in order to obtain potential evidence to further a criminal investigation. In contrast, arrest warrants only allow officers to arrest you and conduct an incidental search. Therefore, if law enforcement asks to conduct a more expansive search of a location not in their plain view, you have the right to say no.
As can be seen, it is important to be aware of whether or not there are any warrants out for your arrest. However, many people are actually unaware that a warrant has been issued for their arrest, until they are arrested pursuant to the warrant. Luckily, there are many different options for looking up warrants.
There are numerous ways in which an individual can lookup whether or not they have a warrant out for their arrest, other than walking directly into a police station and asking. Below is a list of ways that you may lookup whether or not there is a warrant out for your arrest:
- Local Court Records: The most simple way of determining whether there is a warrant out for your arrest is conducting a search on your local court’s website. Generally, every county website has a searchable public records section where an individual can search by their name and birthdate as to determine whether they have a warrant;
- Contact Local Sheriff’s Office: If the county does not have a website with a searchable public records section, then you may contact the local sheriff’s office over the phone and inquire whether or not there is a warrant out for your arrest. However, you may be questioned over the phone;
- Contact the Court Directly: Another option for looking up a warrant is to contact your local county clerk. Additionally, if you suspect that there is a federal warrant out for your arrest, you will have to contact your local federal district court clerk;
- Hire an Attorney: Another way of searching for a warrant is to hire an attorney to conduct a search for you. Attorneys have access to databases that are not accessible to the public. They will be able to provide you with information regarding whether or not you have a warrant for your arrest;
- Bail Bondsman: All bail bondsmen have access to county databases that show active search warrants, and may conduct a search on your behalf; or
- Arrest Warrant Search Websites: You may also utilize third party for profit websites to conduct an online warrant search. It is important to remember that these websites will not provide you the information for free. Additionally, these websites might not be as up to date as county record or police websites.
As can be seen, there are numerous options to lookup a warrant. However, it is important to first try and lookup a warrant using a local court or police website, as their information is the most up to date. If you are given outdated information which does not show any existing warrants, but you in fact do have a warrant for your arrest, your warrant may become an outstanding warrant.
In fact one of the most common reasons for an outstanding warrant is because the person is not aware that there is a warrant for their arrest.
As noted above, one of the best options for determining if you have a warrant is to hire a knowledgeable and well qualified criminal attorney. An experienced criminal attorney will be able to lookup the information for you. Additionally, if you do have an arrest warrant, they will be able to advise you of your best legal course of action for dealing with your arrest warrant.