How to Find Out If a Person Has an Arrest Warrant

By Joseph Nicholson - Updated March 29, 2017

Any state's Department of Justice will tell a person if he has any outstanding arrest warrants. The only problem is that, if there are outstanding warrants, that person could be arrested on the spot. Not surprisingly, a small industry has arisen around discreetly performing background checks and finding arrest warrants. This can be helpful when meeting someone new, meeting conditions of employment, or in determining whether you have been a victim of identity theft and a crime committed in your name.

Ask the state

If a check for warrants is part of an employment screening process, the most thorough and reliable approach is to have the job applicant apply for a full background check with the state's Department of Justice or attorney general's office. This typically involves filling out forms available through a website, getting fingerprinted at an authorized site, and paying a small processing fee. Usually, a response can be obtained with this method within three days.

Ask the court

Arrest warrants are issued by state courts for the detainment of a person on probable cause of a crime, and are a matter of public record. Most court systems have websites, but will require an in-person visit to search the public records for an arrest warrant in a person's name. Depending on the court, this might be done through a clerk or through a computerized database. Since many people can have the same or similar names, it's helpful to have some corroborating information such as an address or Social Security number.

Hire a private search firm

Another discreet way to search for outstanding warrants is through any one of a number of online search firms (see Resources). These will take as much information as can be provided, including aliases and all known addresses, and conduct searches in all relevant jurisdictions for as little as $40. The information provided will include much more than just arrest warrants, but these will appear if issued.

Tip

Arrest warrants are issued for misdemeanors in which probable cause exists for a crime that was not witnessed by a police officer. These include unpaid traffic or parking fines, failure to appear in court, or failure to comply with terms of bail or parole. Millions of unserved arrest warrants remain in the criminal justice system at any given time.

Warning

A search at a courthouse or with a state will only yield results in that jurisdiction, and shouldn't be considered conclusive. Most states link certain public civil services like obtaining a driver's license or passport with a search for outstanding warrants. Access to these and other privileges might be restricted for anyone with outstanding warrants.

About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.

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