An individual can find out if she has a warrant by visiting her local police or sheriff’s station. A law enforcement officer can conduct a search to see if she has a warrant. A lawyer or family member may be able to make the inquiry for her. An individual can also visit her local clerk of court, where the clerk of court will do a warrant search.
Some courts and law enforcement offices offer public records searches online. An individual should not search commercial databases, as these may be outdated and erroneous.
What Are the Risks of Asking?
An individual with an active warrant who makes an inquiry in person can be arrested at a law enforcement agency or at a courthouse. A person with an active warrant may also be arrested if he is pulled over for a traffic stop.
Some law enforcement offices’ online searches are updated only a few times a day, so recent changes may not be reflected in the online database. An individual could have an active warrant, but not think so because the warrant has not yet appeared in the database.
When Will a Warrant Be Issued?
A court will issue a warrant if a party does not appear at a court hearing or fails to comply with a court order. Examples of court orders that must be followed are orders to complete a substance abuse treatment program, do volunteer work, community service or to be taken into custody to serve time in jail or prison.
Different Types of Warrants
An arrest warrant is a warrant signed by a judge to arrest the person named in the warrant. A judge issues an arrest warrant when a law enforcement officer has shown that there is probable cause that the person named has committed a crime. A traffic warrant is a warrant for a traffic ticket or unpaid parking tickets.
A search warrant allows the search of a person and her property. In order to sign a search warrant, a judge must reasonably believe that a crime has been committed and that evidence of the crime is likely to be found in the place, person or property described in the search warrant.
A bench warrant is issued when a party fails to appear for a court proceeding, like a hearing or a trial. The term, failure to appear, is abbreviated as FTA. A judge may also issue a bench warrant for failure to pay a fine, such as restitution to a victim. A court usually sees a bench warrant as less serious than an arrest warrant.
How to Get a Warrant Cleared
In some cases, an individual can get a warrant cleared by forfeiting bail. This means paying the entire amount of bail owed. She can post bail with a law enforcement agency or with the court. She may need to request a court date to get the warrant cleared. The individual may need to appear at the appropriate counter of the court that issued the warrant at the appropriate time.
For example, if a person has an outstanding arrest warrant, he could appear at the court’s criminal division counter at a certain hour. The clerk of court will direct him to a specific courtroom to respond to the outstanding warrant. If the individual does not come to court at that time, the warrant will remain active. The court may have different appearance times for misdemeanor and felony cases.
- The Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara: Warrants and Corporate Summons
- Superior Court, County of San Diego, Criminal, Warrants
- San Francisco Sheriff's Department Frequently Asked Questions
- The Superior Court of California, County of Napa, Criminal/Post Court Services Division
- San Diego County Sheriff's Department: Warrant Query By Name
- Superior Court of California, County of Orange, Failure To Go To Court Or Pay
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.