The best way to find an arrest warrant is to determine which law enforcement agency issued it. Ohio has a state police highway patrol, county sheriff's department and town and city police for many municipalities. They all can issue warrants for someone's arrest after an officer or investigator determines there's enough evidence to charge a suspect with a crime. Agencies share information and may be aware of each other's outstanding warrants if a suspect enters other jurisdictions. You can use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the records.
List the information you have on a person or persons that you believe might be wanted by police. This would include their name, address, age and an estimated date of the crime for which they've been accused. The information probably already exists in police, court and E-911 data bases.
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Call the non-emergency, administrative number for the county 911 office. Depending on the size of the department, there may be a records clerk on staff. If not, you might have to allow the department a few days to conduct the research and get back to you. They can tell you, based on any names, dates and description of crimes or incidents, which police agency was assigned to the matter that may have resulted in a warrant being issued for a suspect's arrest.
Visit the police department noted by the 911 department. This could also include a field office of the Ohio State Highway Patrol or a county sheriff's department, so don't assume the case belongs to town or city police. Provide the name of the person for whom the agency has an arrest warrant. If it turns out the agency is not the one that issued the warrant, ask a records clerk or officer if the warrant has been electronically submitted to their data base. Many police departments in the state can share data and reports through the Ohio incident-based reporting system. If you are not seeking records for anyone specific, simply ask to view all the department's current arrest warrants. Either way, department staff may ask you to put your request in writing under the provisions of the state's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) before they tell you if such a document exists and whether you can have it. Your written request should include your contact information and a description of the specific document you are looking for. If a case is still under investigation and the release of a suspect's name would jeopardize a police agency's ability to apprehend them, you may be denied access.
- Ohio' Sunshine laws for public records pertain to all government and public agencies or departments. Your written FOIL request for the information should include your contact information and a description of the specific document you are looking for. According to Ohio Attorney General's office, you do not have to note why you want the document. However, there are some exceptions to FOIL laws that allow law enforcement agencies to deny certain requests. If a case is still under investigation and the release of a suspect's name would jeopardize a police agency's ability to apprehend them, that could be grounds for denial.
Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.