In Pennsylvania, an individual can check if they have active warrants by using the statewide warrants option on the website for the state’s unified judicial system. A user must establish an account to use this system. They can also visit or contact the clerk of court for a specific court of law or check the list on the website of the local municipal court.
If the website of a county has a page of active warrants, they can check this to determine if they have an active warrant in that county.
Local Municipal Court Records
A local municipal court, such as the New Philadelphia Municipal Court, provides an active warrant report, with a list sorted by a defendant's name. There is a potential delay of up to 24 hours for information on this website. The list gives the first name and last name of the defendant, their birth date, the date that the warrant was issued, and the case number.
A county’s website will not list the individual’s warrants in another county. They, their attorney or a person close to them like a relative, can contact their local law enforcement office. This office may have sought a warrant, and the staff can share whether the court actually issued the warrant.
Different Types of Warrants in Pennsylvania
Types of warrants include:
- Arrest warrant: Used to hold a person in custody if they have been alleged to have committed a crime. An arrest warrant must charge a specific offense.
- Criminal warrant: Issued for a defendant in a criminal case.
- Bench warrant: Also known as failure to appear (FTA) warrant or capias warrant. Can be issued in a criminal or civil case. A judge typically issues bench warrants when those ordered to appear in court fail to appear. A judge can also issue a bench warrant when an individual disobeys another court order, such as an order not to contact a victim.
- Traffic warrant: Issued for a person who has not paid traffic tickets. Also called scofflaw warrants.
- Search warrant: Used to search a person, place or property such as computers, bank records or cell phones.
Unexecuted Search Warrants
In Pennsylvania, generally, warrants are public records. An exception to this rule is that unexecuted search warrants are not public. The term “unexecuted” means that the search warrant has not been completed; the person or place described in the warrant has not been searched.
Definition of Outstanding Warrants
The term “outstanding warrants” refers to warrants that have been issued, but not filled; the subjects of the warrants have not been arrested or have not turned themselves in to authorities.
Domestic Violence Prosecution
A crime involving domestic violence, such as physical abuse of a person with whom the alleged abuser has had domestic relations, like a romantic partner, involves charging a defendant who violates a protection from abuse (PFA) order with indirect criminal contempt (ICC).
A PFA order makes it unlawful for an alleged abuser to contact their former romantic partner, children or family members. Indirect criminal contempt is essentially contempt of court and is incurred when a defendant violates a court order outside of the presence of a judge.
A person can be charged with ICC even if the court has not held a hearing on whether the protective order should be permanent. A defendant faces charges of domestic violence in a court of common pleas. This type of court is a trial court, which hears major civil and criminal cases.
Warrants in Allegheny County
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, is located in the southwest part of the state. As of October 2022, this county is the state's second-most populous county, after Philadelphia County. The county seat is Pittsburgh.
A person can find out if they have a warrant in Allegheny County by contacting the appropriate warrant office in person because the offices do not provide information over the phone. The sheriff’s warrant office is the repository for criminal bench warrants issued by the common pleas courts of Allegheny County’s criminal division.
The warrant office is the repository for ICC warrants in the county. These warrants are issued out of the domestic relations unit of the family division of the Pittsburgh Municipal Court (PMC) or the magisterial district judges (MDJ). ICC warrants are not issued by the sheriff’s office.
Who May Contact the Warrants Office
The warrants office will not provide information to the general public. A person who is the subject of an ICC warrant or their criminal defense lawyer may contact the warrant office of Allegheny County to determine whether they have an active warrant. The warrant office will not send the document to a person who requests a copy of a PFA.
Child Support Warrants
A county may have a separate website dedicated to listing its most wanted persons with a warrant for nonsupport, meaning not paying ordered child support. For example, Dauphin County lists the first and last name of such an individual with their photo, date of birth and last known address. The site also provides the amount each offender owes for child support.
Crimewatch and Warrant Lists
Several counties in Pennsylvania provide information about warrants through a resource called Crimewatch. The Crimewatch website is a government site specific to a county that builds public awareness of crimes and offenders in that county. For example, Lancaster County’s Crimewatch provides:
- Title of a warrant.
- First name and last name of offender.
- Type of warrant, such as bench warrant.
- Docket number, meaning the court’s case number or the court’s tracking number.
- Date warrant was issued.
- Holding department, meaning the law enforcement agency that requested the warrant.
A Crimewatch website may also provide:
- List of most-wanted individuals in the county.
- Incident blotter showing what incidents took place within the county.
- Cases of concern within the county, like names and descriptions of missing persons and places; circumstances under which these people were last seen; instances of common types of theft, such as thefts of catalytic converters; and requests for assistance in identifying shoplifters.
- Arrests made in the county.
Crimewatch lists the arrests even if the warrants for the arrested persons are no longer active because the alleged offenders are in custody.
- The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Web Portal: Secure eServices
- Montgomery County, Pennsylvania: Active Bench Warrants
- Allegheny County Sheriff's Office: Warrant Office
- Statutes of Pennsylvania: Section 62A14 Contempt for Violation of Order
- The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas
- Allegheny County Sheriff's Office: Warrant Office Frequently Asked Questions
- Dauphin County, Pennsylvania: Wanted for Child Support
- New Philadelphia Municipal Court: Active Warrant List
- Delaware County, Pennsylvania: Crimewatch
- The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania: Public Records
- Pennsylvania Code: Rule 212 Dissemination of Search Warrant Information
- Cumberland County, Pennsylvania: Bench Warrant Division
- If you go to the police station to find out if a warrant has been issued in your name, you are likely to be arrested on the spot if the answer is yes.
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.