How to Search for Bench Warrants, Arrest Warrants and Their Cases.

Trying to get information on a old court case where you think the court may have issued a warrant for your arrest?

Here are some self help tips for How to Do Your Own Criminal Warrant Search in California, and probably some other states:

First, you have to understand what you are looking for.  Arrest Warrants or Court Bench Warrants do not just suddenly appear from nothing. They are Orders from a Court that tell law enforcement officials to take a person in to custody.  Warrants are the product of a problem in a pending court case at some courthouse.  

Bench warrants are usually issued because of a missed court date. Arrest warrants are usually issued because of failure to obey a court order.

So finding the right court is step 1. Nearly every California criminal and traffic court warrants (and their cases) are processed by the Superior Court for the County where the case is pending.

Criminal cases involving California state law violations are heard in the local County Superior Courts. Nearly all warrants originate from a Superior Court criminal or traffic court case. Warrants can also come from Federal Court criminal cases, but this article does not cover that topic and it is a rare situation.

The court clerk for the County Superior Court is the Primary Source for information on a court case with a bench warrant or arrest pending. It is the best place to start a warrant search.  The court clerk can give you information on the case #, the bail amount (if there is bail set), the charges, the courtroom number, the judge handling the case, etc.

If you do not know which court you want to get information from, you can use a warrant search service such as www.ArrestWarrants.org to help you.

Warrants are public court records, and are not confidential or private in any way. Everyone in the public has a right to get information on an active arrest or bench warrant for anyone else.

When you are looking for a warrant, the important information that you want to find is:  1) the case number and courthouse location; 2) the bail set on the warrant; and 3) the charges that are pending in the case.

Usually, warrants result from a failure to appear for a court date, or a failure to comply with a court order (such as paying a fine or attending court ordered classes).  In some cases, warrants can also be issued for a failure to pay child support, but this is rare.

Visit TrafficCourtPros.com. Free self help.  Free Attorney Case Reviews.

If you know which court the case with a warrant is pending in, a good place to start is the web site for that county’s Sheriff or the Superior Court.  Some Superior Court and county sheriff’s offices do allow on line searches for warrant info, but not all do.  The San Diego County Sheriff’s Office is a great example of a Sheriff’s Dept that provides excellent on line warrant searches.  The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is a great example of a Sheriffs office that does not even try.

Instant Complete Warrant Search

Instant Complete Warrant Search

In some Superior Court web sites, you can look up warrant info on a case on line by checking the “on line services section” of the court’s web site to find the case info, but not all courts are as good with allowing public access to case and warrant info.  The Orange County Superior Court is an excellent example of a court that provides free on line access to case and warrant details.  The Alameda County Superior Court is a Court that does not even try to give the public on line access to criminal and warrant case info.

If you know which court issued the warrant, but cannot get on line access to the info, you can call or visit the court clerk to request the information.

At TrafficCourtPros.com, we have tried to collect the links to court web sites for free warrant search / case info looks for the courts that have on line accesses.  You can check for your county by Clicking on our Free Warrant Search Link.

There are some web based companies that will do a background report on a person for a fee, such as the site we recommend, www.arrestwarrants.org.  These services can a good source of info to help you get on the trial of the information that you need.

Some courts do not (or are very ineffective at) providing warrant and case information over the phone or on the web. Therefore, the best way to get this info is to go to the courthouse and visit the clerks office personally.

If you think you have a warrant because you failed to appear for a court date, or failed to comply with a court order, then you probably do have a warrant, and you probably already know the courthouse where the case is located.

Don’t waste your time calling the police, DMV, the sheriffs office, or the Post Office. Warrants come from the courthouse where the underlying case is located. Calling or visiting the court clerk is that court is the best way to get information on a warrant and its underlying case.

Sometimes a court that issues a warrant will also cause the defendant’s drivers license to be suspended.  In these situations, some warrant info may be found by calling DMV, but that is not the best source of info.  Warrants and drivers license suspension are completely separate problems.

So if you want to find out if you have a warrant, or why you have a warrant, the bottom line is that you need call or visit the court clerk’s office in the county where the underlying case is pending.

Some courts issue warrants from a criminal division and also a traffic division.  You may have to call, check or visit both divisions separately.  Better yet – you need to go directly to the court. If its a criminal issue – you need to talk to the criminal court clerk, if it is a traffic issue, contact the Traffic Court Clerks office.

Once a warrant is found, the problem must be solved.  This usually means taking care of the case that produced the warrant.  One or more court appearances is normally required for warrant problems, and jail time is a possibility.  People with warrants should consult with an attorney immediately.

Knowing that you have a warrant doesn’t really help much.  More info is needed.  The information you need to get quality advice from an attorney about how to solve a warrant problem is:

1) the case number;

2) the original charges in the case; and

3) the reason the warrant was issued.

The court clerk can give you all of this information.

If you use a warrant search company such as www.arrestwarrant.org, and find something, you can follow up by contacting the court for details on the case.

If you have a warrant, jail time is a possible outcome and every day that the warrant is outstanding makes a jail term more likely.  You may want the professional help of an Attorney who can do the tough work for you, and avoid unnecessary convictions or penalties.  In most misdemeanors, even if there is a warrant, California Penal Code section 977 allows an attorney to appear in court for a defendant. Because of this, Attorneys can do the work for you and help you avoid a stressful or embarrassing court appearance.

If you want advice from an Attorney on how to solve a warrant problem once you have basic information about it, get a Free Case Review from TrafficCourtPros.com or contact me directly at cdort@dortlaw.com

Questions?  Leave a Comment.


About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
This entry was posted in California Legal Help, Going to Court, Missed Court Dates, Warrant Information, Warrant Searches and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to How to Search for Bench Warrants, Arrest Warrants and Their Cases.

  1. mark wiley says:

    I need some advice back in 2008 i was arrested ans convicted in san bernadino county for forged access card.. was sentenced to 90 days in jail which the judge let me have three months to get my affairs in order then turn my self in.. which i did .. also i was givin 3 years felony probation… i wasnt a san bernardino county resident at the time i was arrested.. i was from sacramento california.. my lawyer asked the court that my probation be transfered down to sacramento.. so i went to san bernardinos probation department 1 time filled out a bunch of forms and saw a probation officer but it wasnt mine.. she was some supervisor .. basically she said your free to go back to sacramento and await for sacramento county probation to contact you.. tay out of trouble., maintain employment. and pay my restittution.. so i did as told jumped back on the greyhound headed to sacramento.. i was traveling back and fourth going to court untill i was sentenced.. so make a long story short i was living and working in sacramento for about a year.. staying out of trouble.. and working 6 days a week .. keeping busy .. and sending in my monthly repotrs to san bernardino county.. after about a year went by i called sacramento county probation and asked them if they had my file.. and i told them that they were suopposed to be supervising me the lady told me she couldnt find me but for me to make sure i stay at same residence and keep doing what im doing because any day they coukd get to my file and they will be stopping by my residence .. which i did.. about 3 months went by christmas is coming i saved for a car and i bought the car about 1 week later i get pulled over for traffic violation.. the cop tells me i have a warrant from 2008 in las vegas for grand larceny this was before my san bernardino case.. i couldnt understand it at all.. i was so confused how could i of went thriugh jail and court and that warrant never showed up? but it did so i get extradited to las vegas nv were i make bail and get a attorney that got me three years probation which im currently doing right now met the love of my life having a daughter in january,, and also im a fugitive in san bernardino county for probation violation.. guess sacramento county finally came? my luck or maybe it was because i quit sending my reports in that i was violated.. i need some advice because im smart enough to know that that warrant will never go away.. i dont know who to contact in san bernadino count for i never actually had a probation officer there any advice on how to clear this up

    • Instant Complete Warrant Search

      Mark,

      I would love to help you by answering a question for you for free, but honestly, I dont understand what the question is. I tried. I read it 2x.

      I can tell you this – if you want to look up the details of your case and the reason why the warrant was issued – check the court’s web site under “online services”. I think that county is one of the good ones that has free on line access to public case records (like san diego, monterey, orange county, glen county, placer county – but not Santa Clara, Riverside, Contra Costa, etc – some courts are way behind the power curve).

      If you have a complicated situation, you really need to hire a defense attorney to sort it all out completely, correctly.

      Finally, I must tell you that Sacramento is actually “Up” from San Bernardino, not “Down”. “Down” from San Bernardino is Tijuana. You’re already at the ass end (of CA).

  2. Tracy says:

    I was with someone who was stealing (i had a reciept for my purchases) and i didnt know she was stealing, I walked out with her bag full of stolen things. We ended up going to jail then had a tiny bond to pay. This was in Indiana and I had to go back to Minnesota where i live because I was sick. My doctor called the courts and told them i was in the hospital back in Minnesota so I wouldnt be able to make my court date. I never heard anything back from Indiana but Im sure I have a warrant unless they decided to throw it out. But anyways, lets say I did have a warrant; if I went in front of a judge in MN to get a ticket taken off my record, would the judge see that I had a warrant? The police cant pull it up, when they run my name it comes up clean.

  3. Ryan Martin says:

    i have a warrant in riverside county thats been for a couple years i moved up to northern CA and have been stoped by police and had my ID ran and nothing came up i even flew to the east coast and got a job when i came back to CA i tried to look it up and nothing is there?

  4. CaliClair says:

    The biological mother of my hopefully soon-to-be-adopted daughter is on formal probation in San Bernardino County for a felony where she accepted a No Contest plea bargain to one felony count and the other three were dismissed. Recently she was arrested in Los Angeles County for a misdemeanor and released. Less than two weeks later she was arrested again on a felony charge with $10,000 bail. Less than 5 hours later she was again released. Hasn’t she violated her probation (It does not expire until 2013)? Why does she keep getting released before appearing in court? She has a history of failure to appear as well, so shouldn’t she have been held in jail pending court? What happens if/when she doesn’t show for this newest court date (today)?

  5. Lynn says:

    Hi Christopher,

    Wondering of you can help me out here. I just realized that I have a Failure to appear/failure to pay on my record. Thy were both silly fix it tickets that I put off and had to move unexpectedly and didn’t change mailing address and here I am, kicking myself for completely forgetting obout this ticket.

    I’m planning on leaving tomorrow (out of country) for a weeks and panicking that I’m going to run into trouble because of this. I searched LA county database and couldnt find any record of a warrant under my name. Any help/suggestions on how resolve quickly so i dont miss my trip or if I’m going to run into any issues?

    Any help is much appreciated.

    • Lynn,

      My best advice, and the correct way to deal with this problem is: Go to the courthouse in person Monday am and find out the status of the case(s) in person at the court clerks office. If you cannot do that, hire an attorney to do it for you.

  6. Ann harden says:

    Hi:
    I have a gdc id number on someone ..there is a warrant for breaking probation..obsconed..a warrant was issued and I was told on phone
    by a nice lady in probation office…there is still a fine of over 3800.00 and
    that the case is still active..he deliberately left town and did not uphold what the court ordered….

    My little 3 yr. old grandson is at great risk in all this..

    I called the superior clerk of court and they say I have no right to get any information on
    a warrant on someone else. .

    Yet a retired police lt. told me the same thing you stated above… this is public infomation…

    Please tell me what I need to tell the clerk of superiour cout’s office when I call and request
    info on this warrant in writing… All I have is the GDC id case number?

    As I said one nice lady in the office is the one who told me
    is is still active, he obsconed and there were fees still owed and he was not in custody…

    I also called a state number and gave them the GDC number and she said
    it shows he is not in custody, but to contact the clerk of court’s office to
    get info on the warrant in writing..

    I know he deliberately obsonced to another state…..

    why does the clerk of court tell me I have no right to any info..

    Please advise….what do I need to tell the clerk of court when I call them back
    in order to get info
    in writing… They tell me no one has a right to obtain any of this information…

    Please help…

    Thank you very much..

  7. Alex says:

    My friend who was living with me was arrested about a month ago for several home invasions that i knew nothing about. About 2 weeks ago a warrant was issued for me. I am being charged with burglary of an occupied dwelling. There saying i stole a gateway computer and an ipod. I just found out about this warrant a couple days ago and i have contacted by attorney. She suggested i turn myself in with her when i get back from vacation. I looked online today and the warrant no longer shows up but my teen court cancelled me because of the warrant so it definitely was real. What does this mean?

    • Alex,

      I cant answer that question. You need real legal help now.

      Dont trust what you see online about a case. You need to go to the court in person and talk to the court clerk.

      If your attorney told you to turn yourself in later – you need a new attorney. Now. Right now. Today. And you also need to go to the courthouse now, in person, to find out if there is a pending case with a pending court date or what????? Go now dont wait. This sounds like the kind of case where prison time is possible. And prison is not the same as jail.

      • Alex says:

        Thank you for the advice, I went and sat in jail for a bit but the charges were dropped because of no information filed on all counts (There was no evidence as expected).

  8. G Thomas says:

    Hello, I currently live in california but about 3 years ago I was stopped for reckless driving in Colorado(arapahoe county). I never showed up to court and never paid anything. I am sure I have a bench warrant, though I haven’t been able to find any record online. Is it possible they never filed charges? I have also been flying in and out of Colorado and the country with no problem… Does that indicate anything?

  9. louie says:

    Hey i had a warrent in Calif, back in the 80′s. But now its gone, what happend to it?

  10. Kashmir says:

    Attorney, If a person has an outstanding warrant (non-criminal), and appear in person at the county courthouse clerk’s office – can he/she be arrested?

  11. stella says:

    My husband had a background check done for a new job and the info came back showing he has a warrant out for his arrest ($15,000) for a hit and run in 1998. My husband swears he never had a hit and run, the only thing he can piece together from 14 years ago is that his car was stolen and when they recovered it, it was banged up so it was possible it was involved in a hit and run. He does remember filling a police and insurance reports when that happened. The weirdest part is that he has held many prestigious jobs in the last 14 years and had several background checks done with nothing coming up. He has also had a few traffic violations in the last 14 years and the cops never mentioned this! This is the first we heard of this…how is that possible? HELP…what do we do?

    • Stella,

      I get these “How con it be possible if I did not know sooner?” questions all the time.

      Who cares? The problem exists, now you have to address it. Dont waste time or effort trying to figure out why no one told you sooner. It will not help you solve the problem.

      Here is what you need to do:

      1) figure you what court the case is in, and then hire an attorney to sort out the problem, or
      2) go to the courthouse to morrow at 8 am and tell the court clerk you are there to take care of a warrant case. They will give you instructions from there.

  12. William A. Rizzo Jr says:

    I, was stopped last night behind my house while I, was unloading some lumber, this was around, 8:00 Pm, my elderly neighbor, thought it was her son breaking into her garage, he has a restraining order against him. She though it was him and called 911. Since we live 11 miles from the Canadian Boarder, ( Northport, WA. 99157 ) The Customs & Boarder Patrol Officers answered the call, the Sheriff’s department of Stevens County has allowed the Feds to answer calls. < ( Grey area ? ) anyway after talking with the Officers and my Neighbors coming to the back yard to see what all the fuss was about, they told the Officers that I, lived their. So that was that, but before the Officers left they told me that I, had a Outstanding Warrant for me in California, I, asked the Officer what for and he said it was a Misdemeanor but didn't give me the reference number. He thought it was for a traffic Violation, he told me to contact the Sheriffs office for more details. I, had visited California this year on a business trip, I, also purchased a trailer their and had it registered , I, might have gotten a Photo Speeding ticket… ? The new registration was sent to my WA. State address, so they know of my where abouts, I'm entered into the computer. So how do I, go about answering to this charge, and pay the fine or what ever. Please contact me at the above eMail.

    • William,

      Warrants do not get issued for photo citations.

      You need to find out what county the case is in, then contact the criminal division court clerk at that county’s Superior Court to get information on the case.

  13. Larry Bryant says:

    I have a felony probation warrant in Orange county for possession of a controlled substance and I have not reported to my PO. I checked on the warrant via internet and it shows but says “Book Only” what does that mean?

    • Larry, good question. “Book only” probably means “Book and release” – BUT! BUT! I would not guarantee it. It may also mean “Book & Keep” – no bail. I cannot say for sure because it is a stupid internet reading written by some computer nerd who probably has no idea what it means either.

      Better question? What to do? The best option by far with a felony probation warrant is to hire a private attorney (Attorney Mark Gallagher in Los Angeles and Orange County attorneygallagher(at)gmail.com) to get the case on the court’s calendar and to go to court for you alone first. Send the attorney in as a scout. They are disposable.

      For many felony warrants, the warrant is a “No Bail” warrant – which means they are going to keep you for a while. But if you have a private attorney, it can all change before you are taken into custody.

      Dont ignore it. Go in person yourself if you have to.

  14. Kayla says:

    Is there a statute of limitations on a DUI? I was young and dumb once while passing through california when i was 19. I was pulled over in a friends car and got a DUI. I left town and never took care of it this was 7 years ago, i now live in new orleans La and want to get my license back but i can’t seem to figure out if i still have a warrant in Petaluma CA. If I do have a warrant how can I take care of it from here? I am settled down with a family and a good job I can’t just take time off to fly to Petaluma to go to court. Thank you for your time -Kayla

    • Kayla, The statute of limitations is a deadline to file charges, not a deadline to catch you. Charges in a DUI case in CA get filled immediately – you dont have that problem. Yes, I am certain that based on these facts there is a warrant out for your arrest. You can not ignore it. To do so would be stoooopid. Nowadays, a lot of people get arrested at the airport in different states. You are not going to be able to clear your CA drivers license suspension without coming out here. And here is the bad news – most judges will give you about 10 days jail time for each year you let a warrant remain (70 days here) – and they can give you a lot more. And that is on top of what they are going to sentence you to for the underlying crime. So – you have really bad facts here. I’d say you are going to have to not only come out here, but you are going to be facing substantial jail time. You are a fugitive from justice. Wake up. They are going to get you eventually. The best way to limit the consequences is to get here tomorrow, hire an attorney and get into court tomorrow. Really – there are no other options. Have a job is not a defense or excuse. Having kids is not a defense. You are a fugitive from justice. If this were me – it would be my #1 priority in life, because I love my freedom, and the government can take it away. What would I charge . . . . well $2000 if you want me to go and try to get something done with out you (but that is not going to work – it would be a waste of $). You probably have a $25,000 bail warrant. You are going to have to pay a bail bondsman about $2800 – and I am the lawyer, so I have to make more than the bail bonds company. And I am going to have to tell you that you are going to jail for a long time, and I am going to have to watch you be taken away . . . so . . . . I would charge a flat fee of $10,000. No joke – that is what it would take – but I am the best at these cases. Chances of no jail after 7 years of running . . . . about 5%. When can we start . . .. . .. NOW TODAY RIGHT NOW. Dont wait. The problem will never go away. You cannot just ignore a criminal case and pretend it is a drivers license problem. Sorry it is bad news. But there is no good news here. You are probably a candidate for the maximum penalty here. And some day they wil get you. Computers are getting better, not worse.

  15. tonya moore says:

    I need to see if Robert Eugene Freeman has a bench warrant for failuar to appear in court violation of probation. he is my babys father please help. his probation was in sutter county.

    • Tonya,

      Bench warrants are orders from a court that result from a problem with a case, like a failure to appear for a court date.

      The best way to find out if you (or a person) has bench warrant on a case is to visit the court clerks office for the courthouse where the case is pending. In other words – go ask the court!

      You can try to call, but going in person is best. If you go in person, you can even check out and review the court’s file on the case, so you can see exactly what the problem is.

      The court clerks office is the best primary source of information about warrants and the cases they come from. And if you think about it – why in the world would you try to find out from anyone besides the court? After all, if there is a problem with a case like a warrant, the court would have the best info on it, right?

      Here is the link to the court clerks office in CA, Sutter County: http://www.suttercourts.com/index.asp?webfile=Criminal

      If for some reason you are afraid to contact the court, I recommend using ArrestWarrant.org for nation wide warrant searches.

  16. Frances says:

    California’s legal system, based mainly on English civil law, is quite strict. It also includes a few features from Spanish civil law, such as community property. You may also get a relevant information at any of relevant courthouses as mentioned before, but finding the latter takes a lot of effort in first finding the correct court. The third option, which is the most convenient by far, is online search. Using a computer and the Internet, you can search through several public and private databases to get the required information. Great Post!

    • Frances, thank you for your comment and reading the article. I wish I could say that finding a warrant is super easy and free, and available on line for all courts, but that is not true here. In other states, they do have statewide on line warrant searches, but not in CA. In Washington State, you can look up drivers license status on line, with just a date of birth and drivers license #. The status of a drivers license is a public record available to the public on line for free. In California, if you want to know the status of a persons drivers license for a court problem, you have to send them a subpoena.

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  19. laveenia peavy says:

    I wanted to know if can you get a warrant for unpaid speeding tickets? I have one that I forgot about and I don’t know what happens, and I can’t find the ticket information.

    Instant Complete Warrant Search

    ANSWER: Yes, if you do not take care of any citation, whether its speeding or even an expired registration violation, the court may issue a warrant. But its slightly more complicated. With every speeding ticket, you have a choice – pay and admit guilt – or go to court. You must do one or the other.

    The warrant is usually not issued because you failed to pay the ticket. Instead, the warrant is issued because you failed to either pay or appear in court on the date listed on the citation. If you fail to take care of a citation, the court will add a new misdemeanor charge of failure to appear under Vehicle Code 40508a, and the warrant is issued because of that new charge, not because you failed to pay the fine.

    The court may also suspend your drivers license if you fail to pay or appear in court on a citation.

    -Attorney Chris Dort

  20. Brandi Gleason says:

    I Think This Is A Reliable Website Thanks Keep Up The Work. Brandi From San Dimas Ca

    Response: Thank you. We try to publish truly usefuil content. Attorney C. Dort. Email: cdort@dortlaw.com

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