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How Do I Perform a Warrant Check?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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A warrant is a judge or magistrate-issued order instructing a law enforcement officer to arrest the person who is the subject of the warrant if the officer comes into contact with him or her. A warrant can be issued in a criminal or a civil case. Warrants are typically issued because the person is believed to have committed a crime or because the person did not appear for a scheduled court appearance. If a person suspects that he or she may have an outstanding warrant, a warrant check may be able to be done online, by telephone, or in person to verify whether or not an active warrant exists.

An arrest warrant is generally issued when enough evidence has been gathered to convince a judge that probable cause exists to believe that someone committed a crime. A bench warrant, on the other hand, may be issued in either a criminal or civil case when someone fails to appear for court. While warrants issued in criminal cases are almost always input into all available computer databases, civil bench warrants may or may not be entered.

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The easiest way to complete a warrant check is to locate the website for the court where the warrant was issued and check the chronological case summary, if possible. If the subject of the warrant believes that the warrant was issued as a result of failing to appear for court, then the docket entry, or case summary for the case, will include the order for the warrant. Many court systems have very detailed online search options, which can make conducting a warrant check for a bench warrant very simple.

If the subject of the warrant does not have the case information, if the court does not have a website, or if the individual needs to conduct a warrant check for active arrest warrants, then a general online warrant search may be appropriate. The local law enforcement website often has an option to check for warrants directly from the website. If the local law enforcement website does not offer the option to conduct a warrant check, then many companies online will conduct the check for a fee.

Contacting the local law enforcement agency by telephone or in person may also produce an active warrant. Jurisdictions differ with regard to how much help you will receive over the telephone. Of course, conducting a warrant check in person may result in being arrested if there is, indeed, an active warrant.

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Discuss this Article

Emilski
Post 4

One question I have about warrant checks involves how the laws from state to state vary. I am sure that there is a standard by which courts and the law go by, but there are always differences in procedure wherever anyone goes and I am betting a Florida warrants check is different than one in Illinois.

It sounds easy to perform a warrant check and simply seems like the modern equivalent of someone having their wanted poster put up in the post office.

JimmyT
Post 3

@matthewc23 - I have to agree with you especially a bench warrant. Someone performing a citizens arrest on someone who simply failed to appear in court is just plain silly and could endanger themselves.

People do not realize how dangerous it is to try and perform a citizens arrest and there is no reason to do so unless there is absolutely no choice and someone could get hurt if a citizens arrest does not occur.

To be honest I do not fault people who look on websites and see who has a warrant out for their arrest simply because those people are wanted for arrest and the person is doing their civic duty helping the police to apprehend them.

Are they playing police? Not really, they are simply performing their civic duty and trying to get people off the streets that are supposed to be in jail and out of the public.

matthewc23
Post 2

@kentuckycat - As far as a warrant check goes, yes anyone can report a person at any time and the police can respond. As far as the citizens arrest goes, that is a very iffy question.

A citizen's arrest varies depending where you go and to be honest most courts and law enforcement officers would prefer people not to make citizens arrests unless it is absolutely necessary, say if a citizens arrest would stop a suspect from harming someone.

As far as a warrant check goes I see no reason why someone should play police as try and perform a citizens arrest on someone who has a warrant. I guess you legally can depending where, but I do not recommend it and would say that the arrest aspect should be left tot he professionals to handle.

kentuckycat
Post 1

So there is one question I have about warrant checks. Can they be performed by anyone and not just an officer of the court?

I find that some people like to play police and report every little instance that goes on and over step their boundaries as an ordinary citizen doing their civic duty. This seems like the case to me.

Also, as far as a warrant check goes can someone confront the person and make a citizens arrest or do they have to contact the police and rely on them to apprehend the suspect while they simply look on.

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