An arrest warrant is an official order issued by a court that authorizes the arrest or detention of a person accused of a crime. In order for an arrest warrant to be issued, there must be a sworn statement of fact (also known as an affidavit) demonstrating probable cause in which:
- A crime has been committed, and
- the person(s) named in the warrant committed that crime.
For example, an arrest warrant will be issued by a court for someone who is accused of murder so that he or she can be indicted and tried.
If you have an arrest warrant issued in your name, the police have the authority to seek you out and take you into custody as soon as they find you. You also have the option to turn yourself in if you discover you have an outstanding arrest warrant.
An arrest warrant is applicable for both misdemeanors and felonies. Additionally, if a police officer is an eye-witness to a crime or suspects that someone has committed a serious crime but does not have time to appear before the court, they may arrest the person without a warrant.
Bench Warrant vs. an Arrest Warrant
An arrest warrant should not be confused with a bench warrant. A bench warrant is issued by the court when you do not do something that the court has ordered or required you to do, like:
- The Judge sets a hearing date - and you do not show up.
- The Judge orders you to appear for an interview with probation prior to sentencing - and you do not attend
- The Judge sentenced you to probation - and you do not fulfill the conditions of probation.
How to Find Out If You Have an Arrest Warrant Outstanding
- Go to your city/town’s courthouse. If you suspect that there’s a warrant for your arrest, you can check at the local courthouse. However, they’ll probably only have it on file if it was issued by one of their presiding judges.
- Go online. Going online to search for yourself on a criminal background check site is by far the easiest method as well as economical. There are several websites where you can search to see if you have an arrest warrant. Many sites allow you multiple searches for a flat fee that will allow you not only to investigate yourself but others too.