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All About “Warrant Checks”

While most people don’t realize it, a warrant check is a very common activity within the greater field of law enforcement.

There are many reasons why a warrant may be issued for someone’s arrest, some of which are major and some of which are quite minor. In this post, learn what a warrant check is, what it entails and why it happens.  With this knowledge, an individual will be able to be better informed should someone they love be arrested and need bail.

Defining a “Warrant”
In the case of law enforcement, a warrant is a legal document that is issued by an authorized individual (usually a court judge or magistrate) when certain actions need to be taken.

Common actions that justify a warrant include arresting a suspect or searching a vehicle, mobile device or home. A warrant may not be issued without probable cause, a reasonable suspicion that the warrant the action permits is justified.

The Parameters of a Warrant Check
A warrant check is requested when there is a need to know whether a warrant has been filed against a particular individual. Anyone who wants to can run a warrant check since this information can be useful in a wide variety of situations.

Some of the most common reasons why people want to perform warrant checks include pre-employment criminal backgrounds checks and pre-arrest checks. For example, police officers who have detained a driver or are in the process of making an arrest may request a warrant check as part of that process.

Certain professionals such as lawyers, bail bond companies and private investigators sometimes also perform warrant checks as part of their work. And individuals can check to see if they have an outstanding warrant for themselves or for a partner, business associate or colleague.

How to Make Sure a Warrant Check is Legitimate
There are many legitimate reasons why an individual or employer may want to request a warrant search for a particular person. However, it is important to conduct the search through legitimate channels to ensure a complete check is performed.

One common misunderstanding is that simply navigating to a website that offers online warrant checks will produce complete data on the individual’s name. Some states do not permit this information to be posted for public consumption online, which means no such legitimate searches can be performed.

Even for states that do allow public warrant searches, there is no guarantee the information posted for any individual will be updated or complete. In some cases, a negative result will be returned (and a fee assessed) even if there is actually an outstanding warrant in that person’s name.

The best way to ensure complete warrant check information is to apply through a legitimate avenue such as a bail bond company, county clerk’s office, court judge, lawyer, private investigator or other reputable avenues as each state specifies.

How to Request a Warrant Check
Employers, law enforcement officers and others who wish to request a warrant check can do so through a number of different ways. How the search is done can depend on what type of warrant is suspected. For example, for tax warrants, sometimes the local sheriff or county clerk website may list this information online.

For criminal warrant checks, typically the request must be made by email, in writing or in person at a local law enforcement office or through an approved third party such as a bail bond company, lawyer or background check company.

Law enforcement officers who want to perform a warrant check have their own official channels, especially if the warrant involves entry and search of a property or vehicle or even a person. Only certain specific cases may offer police officers and other law enforcement officials the right to conduct such searches without an official warrant (such as if an active suspect is fleeing the scene of a crime-in-progress).

By understanding what a warrant check is, who can request a check, the appropriate circumstances that may indicate a warrant check is necessary, how to request a warrant check and how to know the information is legitimate, it becomes much easier to navigate the legal system to conduct business and enforce public safety. Warrant checks are a useful tool in many situations and are used daily nationwide.

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