A warrant is a legal document, issued by a judicial officer (usually a judge or magistrate), that orders/authorizes certain actions to be carried out against an individual. These actions can include arrest, detainment, and even the search/seizure of the subject’s property or place of residence.
If you have a warrant out for you, the possible consequences you could face will depend upon the type of warrant issued. A bench warrant will be handled differently than a federal warrant for instance.
However, there are a lot of myths and misinterpretations when it comes to warrants. Most people are not aware, for example, that there is no legal obligation for a court to notify the subject that a warrant has been issued for them.
As far as the law goes, the onus is on the subject to ensure their own legal standing. For practical purposes however, most courts will send notifications through the post, but it is still a possibility that you could have a warrant out on you without even knowing it.
That can be quite a sobering thought. If you believe you may have a warrant out for you, even just for a speeding violation or missed fine; it is advisable not to ignore it.
Whilst it is possible to check for a warrant, the process will depend upon the type of warrant it is. Any information you can get relating to the possible warrant would be extremely helpful. The more information (such as dates and court houses, etc.) you have; the easier the warrant search will be.
A bench warrant is issued by a judge or magistrate when they wish a subject to be arrested in order to appear before them in court.
Bench warrants are typically issued for non-felony violations; such as failure to attend a court date or failure to pay a fine, and as such are not pursued as strongly by the police. As a result, it can be possible for a bench warrant to remain active for years without the subject even being aware of the fact.
One way to search for a bench warrant is by going online and checking the website for the state, county or city in which the warrant may have been issued. Many official government websites will have an up-to-date warrant database that you can perform a search of.
Any relevant information will be extremely useful; especially if you know the specific court where it would have been issued. However, there are many illegitimate websites that attempt to pass themselves off as official state/county/city websites. Always ensure any government site you visit ends in .gov, not .com or .ru, or any other variant.
Alternatively, you could phone the court clerk at a court in the same state, and ask them to run a check (sometimes it is advisable to get a trusted friend or family member to do this for you). States keep their court databases up-to-date, although some states will not give warrant information over the phone, if a visit to the court is required to perform a search, you can send a friend to check for you.
A federal warrant is essentially a nation-wide warrant. Federal law covers the entire U.S, and federal LEAs have jurisdiction over the entire country. A federal warrant is issued on behalf of the federal government, usually through the Department of Justice.
This, however, does not mean that only federal law enforcement agencies can apprehend the subject of a federal warrant. They are placed on a national database that is accessed by all levels of law enforcement, and will be actively pursued by local, county, state, and federal law enforcers simultaneously.
If you suspect you may have a federal warrant out for you, that means you are strongly suspected of having broken a federal law. This is a very serious matter, obviously if you were to enquire with any law enforcer you would be arrested and detained on the spot should your suspicion be confirmed. Asking a trusted family member or friend would be advisable in this case; if only to allow yourself adequate time to prepare your defense and hand yourself in.
If you would like to check for a federal warrant yourself, you can call the federal clerk of a court within their district and ask to have a warrant check. Not only should you have your name and DoB to hand, but also your social security number if possible.
Alternatively, if you are willing to be arrested there-and-then, your wisest option would be to call a police station and have them check, if you make it clear that you are willing to cooperate and hand yourself in, they will usually allow you a few hours to compose yourself and make preparations.
An arrest warrant is issued by a state or county judge, authorizing the relevant LEA to arrest and detain a subject, or perform other relevant actions; such as the search/seizure of a subject’s property. An arrest warrant usually results from a police investigation, and is usually requested by the police and authorized by the judge or appropriate judicial officer.
If you think you may have an arrest warrant out for you, then further enquiries should be made as soon as possible. Unlike bench warrants, arrest warrants will be prioritized by the police, and you run the risk of adding an embarrassing public arrest to your list of problems.
Checking for an arrest warrant can also be done at your local court house; by asking the court clerk or even searching on the computers yourself. As with a bench warrant, if there is indeed a warrant out for your arrest, it will result in you being immediately arrested.
Checking online is always the safest option, as with bench warrants, this can be done by visiting official state/county/city websites for the relevant area and looking for the option to search warrants.
There are a host of third-party service providers who offer online warrant checks. Some charge a premium, but there are sites out there that can offer a free warrant check. However, most do not check all local warrant databases, and claim to offer comprehensive searches, but in fact can only return results for property ownership and previous convictions in many cases.
Persopo are one service provider that offer excellent warrant searches. These free-to-use comprehensive searches of known warranty databases can help to ensure there is not a legal time-bomb waiting for you around the next corner.