In Massachusetts, an individual can determine whether there is an arrest warrant in their name in several ways. They or another person, such as a family member or attorney, can call their local sheriff’s office or police department, or the local clerk of court to request a Massachusetts warrant search.
Establishing a CORI Account
Unless an individual is indigent, meaning that they qualify to be represented by a public defender, requesting CORI as an individual is a costly service. Still it is an effective way to determine a person’s number of outstanding warrants throughout the state.
A person will need to submit their valid Massachusetts ID or driver’s license information on their online CORI request form. The cost for each request is $25 in the form of a money order or bank-issued cashier’s or treasurer’s check made out to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is illegal for an employer or other entity to require someone to provide a copy of their personal CORI.
Most Wanted List of Offenders
Individuals who have committed serious offenses may be on a “most wanted” list for the state police or a local county sheriff’s department. The website may not list all the offenders with an active warrant. An individual who does not see their name on the list may contact the government agency that posted the list to see if they have an active warrant.
Probable Cause and Search Warrants
A judge may issue a warrant for probable cause if law enforcement officers have become aware of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe an individual has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime.
A judge may issue a search warrant when there is probable cause to believe that the search will produce evidence of a crime. For example, a judge may issue a search warrant for a house that is reported to be used for packaging and distributing drugs. A judge may also issue an arrest warrant:
- For an individual’s failure to pay penalties and costs imposed by the court, including restitution, or compensation to the victim for an offense.
- When an individual violates the conditions of their parole from the Massachusetts Department of Correction or supervised or unsupervised probation.
- When the individual is in violation of a court order, such as an order not to speak to the alleged victim of a crime.
There are situations when a police officer may engage in a warrantless search or arrest, such as when they observe a person committing a crime like driving while intoxicated.
Failure to Appear in Court
An individual who fails to appear for a scheduled court date, including a case for debt collection, may be charged with contempt of court. In such a case, the judge can issue a warrant from the court called a bench warrant because they were absent. The individual can be a defendant or a subpoenaed witness in a criminal or civil case, or even the alleged victim.
An individual with an outstanding bench warrant should contact the clerk of court or their local law enforcement agency to determine how to resolve the warrant.
Civil Commitment Proceedings
A person who engages in alcohol or substance abuse may be civilly committed to a rehabilitation facility to prevent self-harm. If a judge finds there are reasonable grounds to believe a respondent for a civil commitment proceeding will not appear at the hearing and any further delay would present an immediate danger to the physical well-being of the respondent, they may issue a warrant.
If the court does not issue a warrant, they shall cause a summons and copy of the petition regarding civil commitment to be served on the respondent.
Warrant for Failure to Appear
If the respondent fails to appear at the time summoned, the judge may issue a warrant for the respondent. The issuance of the warrant in this type of situation will not require a determination of immediate danger to the physical well-being of the respondent.
The judge determines how long a warrant will be in effect. They shall not make any warrant issued under these circumstances effective for more than five business days.
Jury Duty Warrant
An individual who failed to show for jury duty may see the court issue a warrant for their arrest. Until the person resolves the warrant, they could be arrested at any time. They could see their professional license, such as a license to practice nursing suspended.
They may be denied state tax refunds, unemployment compensation, public assistance and other benefits. Typically, the person must appear before a judge to have the warrant removed.
The person may be referred to their local probation department as part of this process because court personnel have to gather information about them to present to the judge. The person may contact the clerk magistrate’s office at the court that issued the warrant to learn about removal.
Requesting Disqualification from Jury Duty
If they believe they do not qualify for jury duty, they should bring proof of the reason for their disqualification with them. They should also send a copy of proof of their disqualification to their Office of the Jury Commissioner (OJC).
Credit and Criminal Records
When a landlord or employer does a private background check on a person, they must comply with Massachusetts state law and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Getting information from another party that uses CORI falls within the purview of state law and FCRA.
If the landlord or employer uses CORI themselves, compliance is not a concern. A landlord or employer who plans to act negatively based on the information in CORI must provide the person with a copy of the CORI and identify the information in the CORI that is the basis for the potential adverse decision.
The landlord or employer must provide the person with an opportunity to dispute the accuracy of the information in the CORI.
Process to Obtain Massachusetts Arrest Warrant
In order to request a warrant, a law enforcement officer must file an application containing an affidavit, a sworn statement that is signed under oath. This affidavit establishes probable cause. Affidavits for specific purposes should comply with certain requirements, such as identifying the premises to be searched and/or naming the person to be arrested.
- How to Respond to Jury Duty Warrant
- Mass.gov: Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI)
- Mass.gov: Trial Court Rules, Rule 3, Issuance of Warrant or Summons, Execution of Warrant
- Mass.gov: State Police's Most Wanted
- Mass.gov: Request CORI as an Individual
- Mass.gov: Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Personal Request Form
- Mass.gov: Fair Debt Collection
- Massachusetts Legislature: General Laws, Section 2B, Affidavit in Support of Application for Search Warrant, Contents and Form
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.