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How To Find Out If You Got A Warrant

Arrest warrants or bench warrants are often issued when a person has failed to appear in court or is wanted in connection with a criminal offense. Such warrants never expire and can cause trouble for the affected person. You should speak to an attorney or contact a bail bondsman as quickly as possible after finding out about a warrant for your arrest. But how do you find out, and what should you do? Find all the information you need about arrest warrants, how to find them, and how to clear them below.

What Is an Arrest Warrant?

An arrest warrant is an order issued by a judge to arrest and prosecute a person or group of persons. Such orders are issued after law enforcement agents have found and established probable cause to arrest and detain the subject(s). The reasons or evidence found by law enforcement are often contained in a sworn affidavit accompanying the warrant request. The judge will review the evidence and decide whether to grant the warrant request or not.

Arrest warrants are only valid if they’ve been granted by a judge. Once granted, arrest warrants take immediate effect and grant law enforcement agents the power to locate and arrest you. Although arrest warrants are issued for serious criminal offenses, they may also be granted for misdemeanor crimes.

What is a Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant is an arrest order issued by a judge against a non-appearing defendant in a civil or criminal case. Bench warrants are often issued for Failure to Appear (FTA), probation violation, or failure to obey court orders requiring the defendant to pay fines, perform community service, enroll in mental health institutions, etc.

It is important to note that failure to appear in court or disobeying court orders are regarded as contempt of court, an offense that carries separate penalties from the original charges faced. Some penalties associated with court contempt include fines, forfeited bail, jail time, FTA criminal charge, probation violation, driver’s license suspension, and other punitive measures.

When issued a bench warrant, the defendant’s name is added to a statewide database accessible to law enforcement agents. Unlike an arrest warrant, the police may not immediately swing into action to arrest and detain the defendant. However, the defendant may be arrested during police stops or other police encounters.

What is a Search Warrant?

Search warrants are similar to arrest and bench warrants. They are orders signed and approved by a judge for law enforcement to search a person or their property. This type of warrant is often obtained by law enforcement when there’s reasonable proof to support the presence of evidence at the search location.

How to Find Outstanding Warrants Against You 

Warrants can be issued by the city, county, state, and federal court judges. Once issued, all warrants, except federal warrants, are uploaded to a database accessible by law enforcement agents. Federal warrants are stored in a separate database called the Department of Justice (DOJ) Warrant Information System.

To find out if you have a warrant against you, below are the recommended steps to take:

Online County Courts or Sheriff Records

Citizens can access the online county courts or Sheriff records free of charge to confirm their name against the warrant database. The public search platform allows people to clear their names in the event of inaccuracies. However, it is important to note that this record is often accurate but often does not contain warrants for offenses like juvenile cases, domestic violence, and family law cases.

Contact an Attorney

You must act quickly if you suspect that a warrant may have been issued for your arrest. Contacting an attorney can help you understand your situation and how to proceed. Most criminal defense lawyers can access the bench warrant information in the court system and help address it professionally.

Contact the U.S. District Court

Federal arrest warrants are not maintained in the same database as the city, county, and state arrest warrants. You can find out more about federal arrest warrants by contacting the U.S. District Court or the U.S. Marshals.

Contact Local Police Department 

Law enforcement agents have access to the warrant database and can help you check your name. You can do this by calling your local police department or walking into the police department.

Contact a Bail Bondsman

Bail bondsmen are often able to do a free warrant search for clients. This is because warrants often require a bail bond which bail bondsmen can provide.

How to Clear Outstanding Warrant

Arrest and bench warrants do not have an expiry date. They remain valid until the person is arrested or when they die. It is important to clear your name of any existing warrant as this could pose potential problems for you now and in the future.

Clearing your name often requires you to:

Find Out If There’s a Warrant Out for You:

You can contact the local police department via phone or have a friend or loved one contact the police department for inquiries. If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, then you can either turn yourself in or contact an attorney.

Contact an Attorney:

You can contact an attorney if you suspect a warrant may be out for your arrest or if you’ve confirmed there’s one against your name. Your attorney will guide you through the process.

Contact a Bail Bondsman:

Bail bondsmen often offer free warrant searches for clients and are also able to post bails to secure a timely release from behind bars. For bench warrants or FTA charges, you’ll need to secure your bail before a new court date can be appointed for you.

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