How do I find out if I have an outstanding warrant?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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You can find out if you have an outstanding warrant by looking up your name on your local court's website. A court website may have a searchable public records section with information about outstanding warrants available to the general public. If the website does not have a searchable public records section, call the clerk of court or county clerk. States are divided up into circuits in which criminal cases are heard. Typically, these circuits are numbered. You should have some paperwork from the clerk of court, such as a letter or hearing notice that should provide you with the circuit number and the phone number for the clerk of court.
Do I Have a Warrant?
When you call the clerk of the court, ask if there is an outstanding warrant for “Person X” (your name) in a criminal or civil case. Have your case number, name, birth date, and if possible, Social Security number, in hand. Avoid identifying yourself as the person for whom a warrant was issued. You should not have trouble getting an answer about a criminal case, most data in criminal cases are public record.
Certain civil cases may not be public record. States have different rules about which civil cases are public record. The cases that are most unlikely to be public record are family (dependency or divorce) and juvenile delinquency cases. Civil domestic violence cases, which involve protective, peace, or restraining orders, are also unlikely to be public record. If you believe that records from your case will be restricted, consider working with a bail bondsman or an attorney.
Outstanding Warrants in Federal Cases
If you want to know whether you have an outstanding warrant in a federal case, call the federal clerk of court for your district. If you are uneasy about calling the clerk of court yourself, you can have another person call for you. This can be a friend, relative, attorney, or bail bondsman. Another option is to go to the courthouse and look up your name in their public records, which are usually filed on computers. If it's possible, have another person do this for you - if you have an outstanding warrant, you risk being taken into custody by the courthouse's security officers.
You may have multiple outstanding warrants out for your arrest in different circuits. The clerk of court for one circuit may not be able to tell you whether you have an warrant in another circuit. Consider working with a bail bondsman or an attorney to determine if you have multiple warrants.
What to Do if You Find Out You Have a Warrant
If you have an outstanding warrant, you have a few options. Depending on what the warrant is for, you may be able to take care of it by simply showing up in court and paying a fine. You should check with a lawyer before you choose to show up at the court house, though, as you risk being taken into custody when you identify yourself. The court clerk may be able to tell you what you need to do to take care of the warrant. In some cases, it is better to have a lawyer take care of the warrant for you. If you don't take care of your warrant, you risk being taken into custody the next time you come in contact with the police. Police contact during traffic stops which result in arrests for warrants are very common. Call a lawyer to make sure this doesn't happen to you.