Texas law enforcement authorities issue warrants for various reasons, including for not paying child support, failure to appear in court, or not paying court-ordered fines. Someone who believes they have an outstanding warrant should attempt to resolve it rather than ignore it, which just makes matters worse. There are a variety of ways to find out about outstanding warrants in Texas.
Texas Arrest Warrants
A judge issues a warrant to give law enforcement the authority to arrest an individual. One such authorization, an arrest warrant, allows law enforcement to arrest a person who is suspected of committing a crime. A judge signs this legal document after establishing probable cause, and its purpose is to hold potential offenders accountable for their crimes while allowing them to prove their innocence once they are in custody. A warrant becomes outstanding if it was issued months or years earlier, but there has not yet been an arrest.
The court issues an arrest warrant based on a sworn affidavit stating that the accused person likely committed the crime charged. It identifies the person by their name and other individual characteristics, and describes the offense. If the person's name is unknown, the warrant will describe identifying marks and other physical aspects of the person. This is known as a "John Doe" or no-name warrant.
Reasons for Issuing Arrest Warrants
Law enforcement must have reasonable evidence to establish probable cause for a court to authorize an arrest warrant. After the warrant is issued, the court adds a $50 fee to the individual's case and enters warrant details into a database. The court will notify that person of the warrant by phone or mail.
A judge can issue a warrant if the individual:
- Has new charges pending against them.
- Has committed a probation misdemeanor.
- Failed to show up for a mandatory court date.
- Did not complete a mandatory community service order or driver safety course.
- Refused to pay a judge-assessed fine or did not make a payment under an arrangement ordered by the court.
Bench Warrants in the State of Texas
When a judge issues a bench warrant in a person's name, their arrest is imminent. Law enforcement officers have the immediate authority to take that person into custody. A judge can issue a bench warrant after handing down an indictment – a written accusation that an individual has committed a criminal act. A bench warrant is sometimes called a "capias" or "alias" warrant.
The court also issues bench warrants for individuals in contempt, which means they didn't show up for a scheduled hearing, failed to comply with a court order, or disobeyed a subpoena. It also issues this warrant when a person fails to respond to a ticket within 11 days, does not complete a driver safety course without good cause, does not comply with a community service order, or fails to follow the terms of probation. The court sends the bench warrant to the address that appears on the person's ticket.
How Long Warrants in Texas Stay Active
A warrant will stay active for different lengths of time, depending upon the reason for its issuance. Both arrest and bench warrants are generally active until the judge recalls them or the alleged offender resolves them.
Active warrants do not just go away or become inactive after a certain length of time or when the individual moves out of state. It is best for someone facing a warrant to resolve it as soon as possible. If they do a search and learn that there is a warrant against them, they should contact a criminal defense attorney to aid them in their case.
Texas Warrant Roundup
Hundreds of law enforcement agencies statewide team up for the Great Texas Warrant Roundup each year in February. During this time, extra officers are on the job tracking people who have outstanding warrants, with the idea of clearing as many as possible. Texas allows offenders a grace period to pay their fines without any additional penalties before the roundup begins.
However, once it starts, arrests can take place anywhere at any time, including a person's home, school or work. The state encourages those with outstanding warrants to contact their local authorities and pay their fines before the end of the grace period.
Contacting the County Sheriff's Office
Individuals can stop into their local sheriff's office to find if they have a warrant for their arrest. However, if they do, they will likely face immediate arrest. Even if they call the office, law enforcement officials may trace their call and go to their location to take them in.
After an arrest, the sheriff's office may set a court date and let the arrestee go after posting bail. But that doesn't always happen, which is why an online warrant search may be a better option.
Online Search by County or Municipality
An individual who knows the county or city that may have a warrant out for their arrest can search its official county or sheriff's department website, which will have a straightforward search option. Each county will ask for, and yield, a different type of information.
For example, the Jefferson County search page allows users to click on the initial of a person's last name. A list then appears with a warrant number and information about the case, including the date of issuance and the alleged offense. The Harris County search page allows people to search for active misdemeanor arrest warrants with their full name and date of birth, but they can also perform partial name searches.
Municipalities have their own databases of outstanding warrants. The City of Austin, for example, asks that a person searching for an arrest warrant enter only the first and last name and date of birth.
Child Support and Drug Crime Evaders
The Texas Attorney General maintains a list of people who have evaded child support payments and so have warrants for their arrest. The page lists their pictures and other identifying details, including the amount of child support they owe. It also includes the identities of already captured fugitives.
Users can look through the DEA's website when searching for someone who is wanted on drug charges by narrowing the search to one of its three Texas regions. When viewing fugitives, searchers will see photos, personal details and information about their offenses.
Texas Warrant Searches Using Third Party Sites
There are third-party sites on the Internet that claim to have information regarding outstanding warrants in Texas. For example, Texas State Records has a search engine that allows individuals to lookup arrest records throughout the state. They can locate a warrant as long as they have first and last name information and the city where the arrest took place.
While they may have criminal background data that users can access, third-party sites are not always free. There's usually a fee when accessing them, and they may not have the desired information.
- Law Dictionary: How to Know if You Have Warrants in Texas
- DEA.gov: Fugitives
- Ken Paxton/Attorney General of Texas: Child Support Evaders
- Texas State Records: Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Records
- Harris County Sheriff's Office: Misdemeanor Warrants
- Jefferson County Sheriff's Office: Jefferson County Texas Outstanding Justice of the Peace Warrants
- Texas Warrant Roundup: Home
- Texas Arrest Warrant Records.com: Texas Warrants
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.