How do I find out if I have an outstanding warrant?
How to find out if you have an outstanding warrant starts by looking up your name on your local court’s website. If the website doesn’t have a searchable public records section, call the county clerk’s office. Avoid identifying yourself as the person for whom a warrant was issued, and be sure to hire a lawyer to take care of the warrant for you. Call the number above to find a local attorney today.
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UPDATED: Feb 5, 2021
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A judge or magistrate issues an arrest warrant on behalf of the state, which authorizes an individual’s arrest and detention, or the search and seizure of an individual’s property. A warrant may be outstanding if the person named in the warrant is intentionally avoiding law enforcement, unaware that there is a warrant out for their arrest. For the police to make a lawful arrest, the law enforcement officer(s) must have either probable cause to arrest or a valid arrest warrant.
You can find out if you have an outstanding or active warrant by looking up your name on your local court’s website. A court website may have searchable public records and criminal records section with information about outstanding warrants available to the general public. If the website does not have a searchable public records section, call the clerk of court or county clerk. States are divided up into circuits in which criminal cases are heard. Typically, these circuits are numbered. You should have some paperwork from the clerk of court, such as a letter or hearing notice that should provide you with the circuit number and the phone number for the clerk of court.
Do I have an active warrant?
When you call the clerk of the court, ask if there is an outstanding warrant for “Person X” (your name) in a criminal or civil case. Have your case number, name, birth date, and if possible, Social Security number, in hand. Avoid identifying yourself as the person for whom a warrant was issued. You should not have trouble getting an answer about a criminal case, most data in criminal cases are public record.
Certain civil cases may not be public record. States have different rules about which civil cases are public record. The cases that are most unlikely to be public record are family (dependency or divorce) and juvenile delinquency cases. Civil domestic violence cases, which involve protective, peace, or restraining orders, are also unlikely to be public record. If you believe that records from your case will be restricted, consider working with a bail bondsman or an attorney.
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Outstanding Warrants in Federal Cases
If you want to know whether you have an outstanding warrant in a federal case, call the federal clerk of court for your district. If you are uneasy about calling the clerk of court yourself, you can have another person call for you. This can be a friend, relative, attorney, or bail bondsman. Another option is to go to the courthouse and run a criminal background check by looking up your name in their public records, which are usually filed on computers. If it’s possible, have another person do this for you – if you have an outstanding warrant, you risk being taken into custody by the courthouse’s security officers.
You may have multiple outstanding warrants out for your arrest in different circuits. The clerk of court for one circuit may not be able to tell you whether you have a warrant in another circuit. Consider working with a bail bondsman or an attorney to determine if you have multiple warrants.
What should you do if you find out you have a warrant?
If you have an outstanding warrant, you have a few options. Depending on the type of warrant, you may be able to take care of it by simply showing up in court and paying a fine. Unlike an arrest warrant, a bench warrant is not issued based on suspected criminal activity. A bench warrant is most typically given if a person failed to appear for court, pay a fine, or obey any other court order. Moreover, if it’s a search warrant, the police do not have the authority to arrest a person. The warrant authorizes the police to search a person, a residence, a vehicle, a business place, etc.
You should check with a lawyer before you choose to show up at the courthouse, though, as you risk being taken into custody when you identify yourself. The court clerk may be able to tell you what you need to do to take care of the warrant. In some cases, it is better to have a lawyer take care of the warrant for you.
If you don’t take care of your warrant, you risk being taken into custody the next time you come in contact with the police. Police contact during traffic stops which results in arrests for warrants are very common. Call a criminal defense attorney to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.