Whether you believe you may have an arrest warrant against you or would like to know if an acquaintance or a new friend has such an arrest order lurking in his background, you will undoubtedly have several questions about warrants. So, below are the answers to the top questions people have about Florida arrest warrants…
How do I check if I have a warrant in Florida?
The answer to this question largely depends on what you intend to do if you find out that the local courts have issued a warrant for your arrest. Although this article is in no way meant to be legal advice or to be used as such, it’s common sense- Anything that can put you in police custody is best sorted out sooner than later.
There have been instances in which people are blissfully unaware of an active warrant against them. This typically happens when the charges against them and the warrant result from identity theft. Because they are not actually involved in committing the crime, it is understandable why and how they would not have a clue about the arrest warrant against them.
How can I check for warrants for free?
Going to the clerk of court’s office:
The courts in the state issue all FL warrants. So, if the police have information on them, the judiciary will also have records about these orders in their database. That said, the magistrate’s court usually issues arrest warrants. But they can also come from the County Court or the Circuit Court.
So, you will either need to know about the court that issued the arrest order, or you will have to connect with the office of the Clerk of Court. This is the branch of the judiciary that maintains court records. It is also in charge of providing public access to this information. This data is provided in two ways. The Clerk of Court’s Office typically offers an online case search tool in larger counties.
In areas where an online service is unavailable, you can visit the clerk of court’s office for a warrant lookup. Generally, the lobby has public service terminals that can access county-specific criminal records. The best part is that they don’t charge for the use of these terminals. However, you will have to pay copying costs if you need printouts of the information you access.
- To find the courthouse address in your county, use the details at https://www.flcourts.org/Florida-Courts/Court-Locations. Click on your county’s name to get contact information, including directions to the courthouse and the URLs of the courthouse websites and the clerk of court.
- To know about the contact details of the Clerk of Court of your county, you can also use the service at Florida Court Clerks & Comptrollers. Use the “Find a Clerk” tool and pick the name of your county from the dropdown menu to get to the local Clerk of Court’s Office website.
As mentioned above, this is a free service, but a few offices charge for in-depth online records. Some other offices require you to register to use the case search service on their website. That said, it is crucial to understand that when the crime in question is a felony or a serious misdemeanor, the case records, including information on any active warrants issued, are sealed for one year. This is done in a bid to prevent the misuse of the information by perpetrators.
Typically, this measure of caution is not applied to probation violation warrants, bench warrants, and an alias capias. In case of these arrest orders, the offender already knows that he/she has failed to obey the court or appear in court as required and hence stands to be arrested.
Checking the most wanted list of the local police station and spot crime and crime stoppers:
Another way to find information on outstanding local warrants in Florida is to check out the most wanted page of various law enforcement, judicial, and public service agencies. For instance:
- Information on most wanted suspects is available from various law enforcement agencies. A list of these resources is available at https://www.justice.gov/actioncenter/identify-our-most-wanted-fugitives.
- The most wanted list of Florida Highway Patrol is available at https://www.flhsmv.gov/florida-highway-patrol/specialized-areas/most-wanted-fugitives/.
- Details on the FBI’s most wanted for all cases linked to their Miami Field Office can be found at https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/miami/wanted.
- The most wanted lists from SpotCrime and local law enforcement agencies are available at https://spotcrime.com/fl.
- You can search the absconder/fugitive database of the Florida Department of Corrections at http://www.dc.state.fl.us/OffenderSearch/Search.aspx.
Moreover, it will also be worthwhile to glance over the Crime Stoppers website of your area/county/city. They often post information on most wanted criminals and even allow you to report these individuals anonymously.
How long does a misdemeanor warrant stay active in Florida?
Arrest warrants do not go out of effect! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise; the fact of the matter is that there is no statute of limitation on outstanding warrants. This means that you can be arrested under the authority of a warrant, even if it is a good 20 years old.
The minute you have a brush with the law (even if you are stopped for a broken tail light) and the officer handling the matter discovers the warrant; you will be taken into custody. However, what happens after that will depend on how much time has elapsed since the case was filed against you and your current location.
In the case of life felonies (those punishable with a life sentence or capital punishment), there is no statute of limitations. At the minimum, the state has 4 years to bring the charge against you. In terms of arrest warrants, the order for your arrest will remain valid indefinitely. Also, these are extradition warrants, which means you can and will be arrested in other counties and states and extradited to the issuing county in Florida.
The maximum prosecution time available to the state in case of misdemeanor offenses is 2 years. At the least, the prosecution has 1 year to bring the charge against you. That you will be arrested for having a misdemeanor warrant is a given! However, the county/state may not be interested in paying for your extradition.
Unfortunately, you will be detained in the county/state of your arrest till such time that the Florida Attorney General’s Office relays this information to the arresting agency or their counterpart in the state in which you are detained. Make no mistake; it can be a while before this happens, so it is best to resolve warrants before they come to bite you.
Warrants of cases that are past the statute of limitations:
It is obvious to wonder what happens to arrest warrants when the statute of limitation has been exceeded in the criminal matters that led to their release. It is imperative to understand that a time limit is placed on criminal prosecution and not on the serving of the warrant.
So, regardless of how long it has been since the crime was committed/the warrant issued, outstanding warrants will lead to arrests. Once the matter goes to court, the fact that the statute of limitation has been exceeded can be used as a defense argument. Simply put, as the police say, “You can beat the rap but you can’t beat the ride.”
Parole/probation violation warrants, an alias capias, bench warrants:
Like other warrants, these, too, are not limited by expiry date. In fact, in these cases, you cannot use the statute of limitation to escape the rap because the state has already initiated proceedings against you. Also, you disobeyed a court order or dishonored your sworn promise to the judiciary to appear as required. So, in addition to the existing charges, you will also have to answer for these.
Finally, it will help to remember that the statute of limitation is stopped (for a maximum period of 3 years) if the suspect moves out of Florida. This would mean that the state would automatically get 4 years for a misdemeanor case with a prosecution time limit of just 1 year if you move out of Florida. And in any case, the arrest warrant will continue to be in effect till it is satisfied, set aside or quashed.