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. Counties and cities are different.
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.
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.
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 have a warrant, jail time is a possible outcome and every day that the warrant is outstanding makes a jail term more likely. You should take action right away. You might be surprised at how easy it is to solve a warrant problem with voluntary action.
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.
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