Arrest Warrant Guide

Active Arrest Warrants

If you suspect you or somebody you know may have an active arrest warrant you want to make sure that you approach the situation properly - just showing up at the police station, for instance, could result in you being arrested without a chance to prepare an adequate defense.

What is an arrest warrant?
An arrest warrant is a court order telling police officers that you should be detained in connection with a specific crime. You can be arrested without a warrant (typically if you are suspected of committing a felony), but if you are pulled over by a police officer and you have an outstanding warrant your chances of being arrested are pretty good.

Arrest warrants are often issued in order to allow the police to enter your home and detain you. They are also often issued when you have an outstanding fine to the court that has not been paid for a long period of time - in fact, a lot of people don't realize they have outstanding warrants from minor traffic citations they committed a long time ago.

What does it mean to be active?
Let's say the court issues an arrest warrant because you have not paid an old fine - when you go into the court to take care of the fine they will typically close the warrant out since you took care of the issue. Until you take care of it, though, you are fair game for arrest. This can happen by chance, when you are pulled over for example, or the police officers can come to your house and break in your door to arrest you.

So what should you do?
If you suspect you have an outstanding warrant you should first verify that there is in fact a warrant. Have somebody you know call up the police station or court asking if there is a warrant in your name. This is public information so the court/police station should be willing to tell them.

If you do have an active arrest warrant you should then talk to an attorney. An attorney can properly advise you on your next move - it might be better to go down to the police station and turn yourself in (from a judge's perspective). If it is something as simple as an unpaid fine you might be able to just go make the payment and move on with your life.

Arrest warrants and background checks
This is where things get a little stickier - many background checks will show pending (or active) arrest warrants. If you are applying for a job, loan, etc. you need to first check your own background and make sure you don't have active arrest warrants on there.

You might think that a blemish on your background check is only temporary, but many employers these days store results from background checks for later use. If you apply to Walmart and the background check has an issue there is a very good chance they will never consider you for a job down the road (even if you have everything on your record expunged).

Taking care of active arrest warrants can be tedious but if you want to move on with your life you need to spend the time taking care of it. It is one small thing you can do that will make a big difference in your life.