The Who, When and How of Running Arrest Warrant Checks
An arrest warrant is a document signed by a state or federal judge that authorizes the police and other law enforcement agencies to take the person named in the warrant into custody. In other words, to place the person under arrest.
It is possible for an arrest warrant to be issued without the person named in the warrant being aware of its existence. It is possible to perform arrest warrant checks to find out if a warrant has been issued.
When is an arrest warrant issued?
If the police have evidence to support their belief that someone has committed a crime, they may submit an affidavit from a police officer containing details about the evidence, the name and address of the person to be arrested, and the criminal statute the person is claimed to have violated. A judge who is convinced that the police have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by the person named in the warrant will sign the document authorizing the arrest.
An arrest warrant may also be issued by a judge if a person fails to appear in court. Individuals facing criminal charges who fail to appear in court when they are scheduled to do so could face arrest if a judge decides to issue an arrest warrant.
Private company arrest warrant checks
There are private companies that will search public court records to determine if there is an arrest warrant outstanding for a specific person. The person requesting the search must provide at least the full name and last known address of the individual against whom an arrest warrant might have been issued. There is usually a fee charged by private companies for the search results.
Going to the courthouse
The local courthouse or the local police station might seem to be the most logical places to start an arrest warrant check, but this could end with the person making the inquiry being arrested. It is true that being arrested because of an outstanding warrant will give the person the opportunity to sort things out and resolve the issue that resulted in the warrant being issued in the first place.
Going directly to the police or to the courthouse might be a good idea if a person has made arrangements to have legal representation in case of an arrest. An attorney might be able to get the information without the individual being present and make arrangements with local officials and prosecutors before having the client surrender.
Local law enforcement agency searches
Many sheriff's departments and other local law enforcement agencies have websites that allow someone to input the full name and, in some instances, the date of birth and address of themselves or of another person to find out if an arrest warrant was issued. This is probably a safer alternative to actually appearing in person to make the request.
What to do if an arrest warrant is located?
If an arrest warrant check reveals the existence of warrant, the individual should make arrangements, preferably through an attorney, to resolve the issues that resulted in it being signed by a judge. This might involve surrendering to the police or appearing in court, but these are better than the person being arrested on the street or during a routine traffic stop.
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