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Category - General
Modified - 09/19/2012 08:40pm
How To Search For Warrants the Right Way
Summary: Tips on finding and clearing bench warrants and arrest warrants in common misdemeanor cases. How to get a court date on a warrant, what is a bench warrant. Authored by a Calfornia Criminal Defense Attorney.


How to Search for Bench or Arrest Warrants

General tips on getting information on a misdemeanor criminal case or traffic court case with a bench or arrest warrant. 

This info does not apply to serious or felony criminal cases or Federal Court warrants.  It does not apply to search warrants.  For more detailed info and local resources, see our local State or County pages.  

What is a Misdemeanor Bench Warrant?

Nearly all bench warrants come from pending court cases - and if you are interested in a warrant, you are probably also interested in the court case that produced the warrant.  Right?

Warrants are actually court orders to a Sheriffs Department or other law enforcement that says - basically - "Bring this person to court."

The most common reason for a warrant to issue is a missed court date (failure to appear) or failure to obey a court order, such as a child support order, or probation order to complete classes.

Usually, the information found on the Warrant itself is:  1) the case # and court address that issued it; 2) the required bail to get released after arrest; and 3) sometimes, the charges on the case.

If you want details on the original case and why the warrant was issued, you need to get the case details.

Can Traffic Tickets Result in a Warrant?

Yes.  A missed court date on a traffic ticket can result in a warrant, and/or a suspended drivers license in nearly all jurisdictions.  There is a wide variance in how and when a traffic court will issue a warrant. 

Parking tickets generally do not result in warrants, nor do CA red light photo tickets, because there is no "Promise to Appear" signed by the Defendant.

How To Find Warrants:

If you have no idea what court to look in for information about a case or warrant, you can try private background search companies to search nationwide.

But the best way to find information on an arrest or bench warrant is to go in person to the court clerks office at the court that issued the warrant. The court clerk is the record keeper of the court, and criminal and traffic court records are public records.  You can ask to see them in person.

The court will have information on the warrant and the underlying case.

You may also find information on the warrant alone from the local Sheriff's Office.  Some sheriff's offices, like San Diego, provide on line access to warrant info, but not the info on the underlying case.

If you do not know which court you should look in, the best place to start is the county court where the crime or arrest (or traffic stop) took place.  Most traffic or criminal courts are organized by county, so that is the best place to look first. For example, in CA, the San Diego County Superior Court handles all state law traffic and criminal cases from that county.  They have a criminal division and a separate traffic division. 

If you do not want to go to the court in person, there may be other ways to get information on a warrant.

If you want to search for warrant or case information on line, you can do so in most courts at their web site.  Go to the court's web and look for their on line services section.  But on-line access to court case info varies greatly from court to court.  Some courts are excellent, some do not allow access.

Most courts have a traffic division and a separate criminal division - both of which may issue warrants.  You may have to check both divisions to find the case you are interested in.

The local Court clerk can provide the most accurate info on a court case with a warrant. Many courts provide on line access to case info, and that info will list the warrant if there is one. 

We offer a free nation wide warrant search
link section, and it works really well.  It provides links to local government web sites that provide access to court case info, and warrants where possible.  Some areas are way better at providing on line access to case info than others. 

How to Get Court Date on a Warrant

Most misdemeanor warrants require a personal court appearance to solve the problem. 

Generally, the best way to get a court date on a minor warrant is to go in person to the court clerks office at 8:00 and request a walk in appearance.  From there, the court clerk will give you instructions on where to go, which will vary from court to court. Some courts will allow a walk in appearance, some courts (Sacramento) will tell warrant defendants without an Attorney to go to the Sheriff's Office to be arrested.

In most courts, it is the court clerk that assigns court dates and they can set dates for warrant cases.  In some courts, like San Jose Hall of Justice, a judge's signature and permission is required to add a misdemeanor warrant case to a court calendar. Courts vary on what they require to get a warrant case added to the court's calendar.

In most misdemeanor warrant cases, a Defense Attorney that you hire can do this all of this work without the Client (you) having to appear in court.

For more info, see the Traffic Court Blog Article on the subject.