Bench and arrest warrants are public record in the state of Maryland. Individuals can easily find out if they have an outstanding warrant for their arrest by searching the county or city courthouse clerk's office where the warrant was issued. They can also search Maryland's Criminal Justice Information System or local law enforcement offices that have warrant departments.
Maryland Arrest Warrants
A circuit court judge, a clerk (under a judge's instruction), or a district court commissioner can issue an arrest warrant in Maryland. This warrant allows police officers to apprehend an individual at any place or time. A person can have a warrant for their arrest for several reasons, including abduction, grand theft auto, murder, smuggling, theft and rape.
When a crime victim files a statement of charges, the district court commissioner may issue a summons or a warrant for the accused. If a prosecutor presents adequate evidence to establish probable cause, the court may issue an arrest warrant. Law enforcement then usually attempts to arrest the individual as soon as possible.
Child Support Warrants
Maryland law requires a parent to pay child support until a child turns 18. When a parent does not do so, the court can issue a child support arrest warrant to enforce that obligation. This typically occurs after the court serves the parent with an appearance order and the parent does not show up in court on the date specified or the court cannot serve the summons to the parent.
If the court finds that the parent has the means to pay support but withholds it, that parent can be charged with civil contempt.
In Maryland, a child support arrest warrant can take the form of a failure to appear warrant, a bench warrant or a body attachment, which allows law enforcement to bring the parent to the court to resolve the issue. The individual may be held in jail until the issue is resolved.
Bench Warrants in Maryland
A magistrate or judge issues a bench warrant in Maryland. It permits the arrest of an individual for contempt of court, probation violation or when enforcing an order to appear in court.
The court can also issue a bench warrant to arrest a person charged with a crime who has been released on their own recognizance or who has paid bail, but does not surrender voluntarily.
When the court issues a bench warrant, it typically sets the amount of bond, which a defendant must post to reschedule the trial or hearing. The court can also issue a bench warrant to arrest a person who violates a condition of pretrial release. After arrest, individuals are brought before a judge, who may rescind their pretrial release or allow it to continue.
Finding a Maryland Warrant
A person who wishes to conduct a Maryland warrant search can do so through the courthouse clerk's office where it was issued – these records are public and archived there. They can also contact the relevant clerk's office for information using the Maryland court directory. Some counties in the state also have warrant search pages on their websites.
Another way to find an active warrant is through criminal background checks using the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), run by the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Individuals can also contact local police departments, as some agencies have warrant departments that interface with the public. For example, the Montgomery County Department of Police has a warrants page that tells people who have a warrant what to do if they wish to turn themselves in.
Third-Party Sites to Find Warrants
There are countless third-party sites on the internet that people can access to find active search warrants. However, they are not always accurate. To get records from a third-party site, a user may need to input certain information, including:
- Personal information regarding the alleged suspect.
- Information from the issuing officer.
- Location of the warrant's issuance.
While independent sites can make accessing records seem more accessible, they may not be as up to date as a government-run source. There may also be a small fee required.
How Long Does a Warrant Stay Active?
How long a warrant stays active depends on the kind of warrant it is and the accompanying criminal charge's statute of limitations. However, Maryland arrest warrants do not expire, even if law enforcement cannot execute them. Bench warrants will remain valid until successful execution takes place.
People who have a warrant out for their arrest may not know it exists until the arrest occurs. If they suspect they have an outstanding arrest warrant, they should conduct a warrant search to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. If they find they have a warrant, they can secure a criminal defense lawyer and prepare to appear in court.
What to Do if There's a Warrant
If a person has a warrant and fails to appear, they can file a Motion to Recall the Warrant with the help of a criminal defense attorney. This allows the warrant to be quashed, and the court will set a new court date. If they cannot afford an attorney, they can write a letter or file a motion asking the court for a recall of the warrant.
If these options fail, they can turn themselves into law enforcement. When they do, they will likely be arrested. A judge or a commissioner will set bond or release them on their own recognizance. Before they turn themselves in, they should have a friend or family member prepared to post bond.
- Albers and Associates: What to Do if There Is a Warrant for Your Arrest in Maryland
- Montgomery Department of Police: Warrants
- Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services: Background Checks
- Maryland Courts Directory: Directory of Appellate, Circuit, District and Orphans' Courts
- Maryland Legislature: Article - Family Law
- Maryland Legislature: Article - Public Safety
- Maryland Legislature: Article - Criminal Procedure
- Maryland State Records: Maryland Warrant Records
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.