You can search arrest records and criminal records databases to either verify your records are accurate or to conduct a background check on another individual.
Unfortunately, these searches won’t identify a criminal who has outstanding warrants. To find those, you’ll need to run a warrant search for information about outstanding charges the individual hasn’t been arrested for yet.
It’s always a good idea to conduct a warrant search as part of an overall background check. There are several reasons a warrant search may be a good idea.
For example, if you’re a hiring manager you may wish to run a warrant search to verify that a job applicant isn’t a wanted criminal.
Or, if you've begun dating someone new, you can perform a warrant search to be sure he or she isn't a scam artist, sexual predator or violent criminal. If a person has never been arrested, the name won’t show up in an arrest record or criminal record search, but they may still be facing charges. Only a warrant search can identify outstanding charges.
If you’ve undergone a police interrogation, you may want to know if you’re facing criminal charges so you can be proactive and contact a lawyer.
Or, if you applied for a job and were unexpectedly denied, you may wish to find out if someone who shares the same name is facing criminal charges. A warrant search can give you the answer. You’ll be able to clarify any misunderstandings in a case of mistaken identity.
Arrest warrants are part of the public record. That means you can conduct a warrant search under the Freedom of Information Act of 1966 (FOIA). However, some caveats must be considered before beginning a warrant search.
Confidentiality laws can affect the results of a warrant search. While most details of arrest warrants are a matter of public record, some important details may be redacted. These details may include information about minor witnesses or suspects as well as certain types of signed witness statements. Also, details on victims of sexual assault are usually absent from a warrant search under federal and state rape-shield laws.
A warrant search will include pertinent details such as:
There are several helpful guidelines to follow before performing a warrant search. First, gather all relevant information on the suspect. You don’t want to confuse the subject with others sharing the same name, especially if it's common.
You must also remember that law enforcement officials sometimes misspell the names of individuals in arrest warrants, so you should check common variants of each name. For example, an arrest warrant for a suspect named James Smyth may accidentally list the individual as James Smith.
You must also identify the right jurisdictions while conducting your searches. Unfortunately, national warrant search databases are only available to law enforcement, so members of the public must begin their searches at the local level.
You should initiate the search in the jurisdiction where your subject currently lives. However, if a person recently relocated from another state, you can run a warrant search in that location as well to look for any outstanding warrants.
You can begin a warrant search by visiting your local courthouse to find out if any judges in that jurisdiction signed arrest warrants for the individual in question. However, this approach is far more time-consuming than using a warrant search database.
You can also conduct a warrant search through the county sheriff’s website. You’ll need a partial or full name and the subject’s date of birth. If you don’t know the subject’s exact date of birth, you can run multiple searches under all years within that range.
There are also people search platforms that can speed your inquiries. This site can help you identify places the subject has lived, which is useful for determining where to run your warrant search.
Keep in mind that all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If your warrant search shows the subject is wanted for a crime but never convicted of anything, they may be innocent.
On the other hand, you should have serious reservations about trusting any individual with outstanding warrants, especially if they've previously claimed they’ve never been in trouble with the law. Clearly, that person isn't honest with you.
Also, you probably shouldn't invest time or resources in a professional or social relationship with someone facing arrest, even if you have reason to believe they’re innocent. The relationship could be cut short by an arrest, and you may face accessory charges if you aided them after conducting a warrant search.
It’s also imperative to make sure you identify the right person before conducting a warrant search. As mentioned above, this guideline is especially important if the individual has a common name.
Most services require you to know the subject’s year of birth before running an arrest warrant search to minimize the risk of mistaken identity.
However, there is still a risk of "false positives" if people have a very common name, especially if you run a warrant search in the wrong community.
The risk is also higher if you run a warrant search in the subject’s former state of residence without knowing the name of the correct county.
If you run a warrant search and discover someone has outstanding warrants for a serious crime, such as homicide, sexual assault, domestic violence or fraud, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement office.
Don’t attempt to warn the person that you've discovered outstanding warrants by conducting a warrant search. You don’t know how the person may respond and you could face charges yourself, especially if law enforcement finds out that you didn't report that person to them.