Whether you believe that 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, given below are the answers to the top questions that people have about Florida arrest warrants…
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.
You also need to understand that warrants of any kind are sent to the police to be served to the defendant. Undoubtedly, the local law enforcement agency will have the lowdown on all outstanding warrants issued by the courts in their county/geographic jurisdiction.
Moreover, police departments also access the central databases that hold criminal records from the state and the country. The information in these repositories is used dozens of times by law enforcement officers during their workday.
An example of this would be an officer’s response when a person stops running a red light or for any traffic-related infraction. The offender is asked to hand over his license. The officer then runs his name through the state and national databases to determine if he has any active warrants against him.
If one is found, the police officer must take this individual into custody, even if the warrant in question was not issued in his county or, for that matter, in the state of Florida. In a nutshell, the existence of an active warrant means arrest is imminent, and it can happen at any time and any place.
So, if you want to sort out the mess before it gets out of hands, you have two ways to find out if you have an outstanding warrant against you:
Approach the police: You can connect with the city police department's records unit or the sheriff’s office for a warrant search. While not all law enforcement agencies provide the facility for a third party warrant check, they will have no qualms about handling the first-party inquiry. That said, if a warrant is found, you will be arrested immediately.
So, this option will work for you in two scenarios. Either you should be sure that there isn’t an active warrant out in your name, or you should be sure that the warrant against you has the condition for release mentioned, either personal recognizance or preset bail amount.
You will be arrested with such warrants but released almost immediately after the intake booking procedure has been completed. Having said that, if either of these scenarios holds for you, a trip to the office of the sheriff or the police department may not be needed at all.
You could stop a trooper and ask him to run your name through the warrants database. Another way is to show up at the City/County Jail or the magistrate’s court. Typically, the local law enforcement agency provides information on how to turn yourself in if you have a warrant against you on their website.
Get in touch with an attorney: The explanation above naturally gives rise to the question, what if the warrant does not have the provision for release on bond or personal recognizance immediately after arrest? Typically, such arrest orders are issued in connection with felony and serious misdemeanor crimes against those who have violated parole.
These cases are not cut and paste like those discussed above. So, after the arrest, the detainee is held in custody till he can be taken to court. This is usually done within 24-72 hours. The arrestee is released only if the court grants him bail. In a nutshell, you will have to get in touch with an attorney. So, instead of doing it after the arrest, get in touch with your lawyer before arrest if you were ever suspected of committing such crimes.
First, your attorney will ascertain that there indeed is an active warrant in the system against you. Then, he/she will get in touch with the District Attorneys Office to try and work out a deal for you. This could involve release on bail immediately after the arrest, followed by trial or negotiation for the plea you file, and the eventual sentencing. It all depends on the crime in question. But, enlisting the help of a lawyer will be your best bet in such cases.
Created between 1967 and 1969, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is responsible for protecting the citizens of Florida as well as visitors to the state and strengthening domestic security by pooling the resources of local, state-level and federal criminal justice agencies.
The FDLE maintains its presence all across the state with 7 Regional Operations Centers. Through its 5 divisions, the agency offers the following services:
- Protection and Security
The investigative services of the agency include a gamut of multi-jurisdictional facilities involving independent investigation as well as coordinated investigations that see the FDLE collaborating with local, state and federal criminal justice offices. The agency focuses on 6 crime categories:
- Economic crimes
- Counterterrorism and domestic security
- Narcotic/drug crimes
- Violent crimes
- Computer/cyber crimes
- Public integrity
Given the focus areas of investigation, the agency handles a broad range of cases, including those that involve civilian victims as well as well as those in which a law enforcement agent is accused of using undue force. For instance:
- The FDLE frequently investigates officers of the Florida Department of Corrections, who are accused of shooting or physically harming a person that leads to serious injuries or death.
- The agency also tackles reports of cases involving missing people and abducted children.
- The FDLE also provides intelligence support as well as its investigative services towards enhancing the state’s preparedness against terrorism threats.
- Also, the agency assimilates and analyzes crime records to identify and monitor issues pertaining to the law and order landscape of the state.
- Furthermore, the agency maintains a state-level database of information pertaining to gang activity, violent crimes, cyber threats, economic crimes, sex offenders, missing persons, wanted criminals and narcotics. This information is shared with all state and national level criminal justice agencies.
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 itself result from identity theft. Because they are not actually involved in committing the crime, it is understandable why and how they would not have an inkling about the arrest warrant against them.
Barring this scenario, most people have some idea about the possibility that an arrest order may have been issued against them. If you think an outstanding warrants only results from involvement in a serious criminal act, think again. A capias/warrant can be issued for a myriad of reasons. Here are some of these reasons:
Outstanding warrants issued in felony crimes: This one is a no-brainer really! The crime is serious and the perpetrator is not in police custody already, but do they do have enough evidence for any reasonable person to believe that the crime was committed by a certain individual.
In such cases, even if the police don’t immediately have the name and address of the suspect, they will seek a warrant against him/her and will most likely be granted the arrest order. In time, as the investigation proceeds and they find out who is to be blamed for the crime, the warrant is changed to include the name of the alleged offender.
Along the same lines, through the course of the inquiry if the police find evidence that points to the involvement of another person, and not the individual against whom the warrant was issued, the court will cancel the initial arrest warrant. However, this is a very rare occurrence.
Because felony offenses carry a sentence of more than one year, the arrest orders issued in such cases are seldom pre-bonded warrants. This means that you will have to appear before the court to sort the matter out once you are arrested.
Active warrants against serious misdemeanor crimes: These carry a sentence of less than one year; hence the warrants are usually bonded. This means that the arrest order has a mention of the conditions of release. The majority of the warrants issued by FL court are against misdemeanor offense, including traffic and civic infractions.
These warrants are issued even if the perpetrator is no longer in Florida. Extradition to FL does not happen in case of such warrants. However, you will not get a weapons permit, a passport or be able to vote if you have an active warrant against you.
Bench warrants: These are also arrest order but they are issued when an under-trial is released on bail and subsequently fails to appear in court as ordered.
Alias warrants: Think of this as a form of bench warrants. Also issued in case of no appearance in court, these warrants are reserved for when the person does not respond to a citation or fails to appear in court before a plea is entered.
Capias pro fine warrants: As the name suggests, these arrest orders are issued when an offender is found guilty of committing a particular offense and is ordered to pay a fine or fulfill some other condition, but fails to obey the verdict/order of the court in the matter. The only way to deal with such a warrant is to either pay the court ordered fine or serve the court ordered sentence at a correctional facility.
Civil capias: Also known as a body attachment order, this is a form of warrant that authorizes the police to arrest you and bring you to court. In other words, they cannot hold you in detention and the only reason why you are taken into custody is so you can be presented before the court. This order is issued when a defendant is in contempt of court because he has repeatedly failed to obey a court issued order/verdict.
Probation violation warrant: As the name states, this arrest order is issued when offenders, who are released on probation, violate the term of their release and subsequently skip town or go into hiding to evade arrest.
Fugitive/ Extradition warrant: These come from other states and can be used against people who are living in Florida. When such a warrant is found, the local police will arrest the individual in question and extradite him back to the state in which he is being charged.
Governor’s warrant: When a person accused of committing a serious crime is found to be living in Florida, the Governor (of the state in which the crime was committed) can issue a warrant that authorizes local (FL) law enforcement officers to arrest this person and hold him in custody till he can be deported to the state in which he is alleged to have committed the crime.
The terms level 1 and level 2 background check are exclusive to the FDLE and refer to the extent of information offered in response to a criminal background search. The terms are also used to clarify the screening tier required for various employment positions and sectors. The requirements for these checks are different as are the results of the inquiries.
A level 1 background check: This is a simple name-based state level background check. This will get you information on local criminal cases against the subject; those in which the person was found guilty as well as those that are ongoing criminal matters. In addition, the results will also include state-level employment history verification and sex offender registry checks.
A Level 1 check, in other words, is a fairly basic background screening strategy. But since the issue of arrest warrants happens before fingerprinting of the accused at the time of booking, a name based inquiry will get you details on warrants against the subject.
A state background check costs $24 and you can submit your request online, through mail or in person. The results of the inquiry will include criminal information that goes back to no more than 7 years. Anybody is allowed to conduct a level 1 background search and you don’t need third party authorization to file your request for the inquiry.
A Level 2 background check: This is an -depth inquiry about the criminal history of a subject. Civilians and private entities (unless mandated by law) are not allowed to initiate a state and national level background check. This is a fingerprint based screening, so there is no question of getting it done discreetly. The subject of the inquiry will have to be involved and will be required to show up at the FDLE office or at the local police precinct for fingerprinting.
Although the results still only go back to 7 years, they are far more extensive, and include such information as:
- Details on all FL arrests as well as detentions that occurred in other parts of the country.
- All criminal matters that involved the subject regardless of where they occurred in the country.
- Data on verdict and sentencing and correctional information.
- Information on arrest warrants issued anywhere in the country.
- Details on all open as well as closed cases.
- Some sealed records.
- Information on the subject’s involvement in disqualifying crimes such as murder, sexual assault, aggravated assault, rape, manslaughter, kidnapping, incest and others.
Level 2 background checks cost $19.25. You will find more information on employers that are required by law to conduct a state + national background check at https://www.pbso.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/BackgroundChecks_FAQl.pdf.
Through an FDLE background search: Because active warrants will show up in an FDLE background check, this is one way to look for the arrest orders in your name. To initiate the warrant check through this option, you can file an online request for a criminal background search at https://cchinet.fdle.state.fl.us/search/app/default?0.
You will have to provide your full name and credit card details. The agency charges $25 ($24 fees + $1 credit card processing cost) for the inquiry and the results are displayed immediately on your screen. You will have to pay the fee even if no criminal records are found. Similarly, if you find multiple records with the same name and want to access more than one subject’s criminal history, you will have to pay $25 for each inquiry.
You can also request a criminal background check through mail. For this, fill the form at https://cchinet.fdle.state.fl.us/search/app/faq?9-2.ILinkListener-CrimInfoFormLnk. Mail the completed form along with a money order or check for $24 to The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, User Services Bureau, Criminal History Services, PO Box 1489, Tallahassee, FL 32302. In case of problems/questions, you can call the agency on (850) 410-8109.
Through a local criminal records search: You can also request a local criminal history search through the Office of the Sheriff’s Department of your county. Usually, this will cost you no more than $5 to $10. In some areas, the police offers this facility free of cost. However, they can only provide criminal records from within their jurisdiction. This means you will only be told about arrests and warrants from that one county and not from all of Florida.
Hire the services of a private investigator: Of all the options, this will be the most expensive. In fact, you can expect it to set you back by at least a $1000 or more depending on the amount of information you need and where the subject lives. The upside is that this option will get you the most pertinent and extensive information about your subject.
However, this kind of due diligence is certainly not called for unless you intend to put your subject in a position where he/she can cause harm to your family or your professional interests. Undoubtedly, PIs have access to several non-public databases, but they also refer to data that is publically available to compile their reports. So, it would certainly make sense to check out the free resources mentioned in this article before availing the services of a professional.
Use an online private criminal records search service: This is an easy and affordable option and one that can get you criminal records from all over Florida and sometimes also from all over the country. These are name-based searches and the tools are configured to pick up details from publically available as well as non-public sources. The report will typically include the arrest records of the subject as well as information on all warrants against this person and details on all ongoing criminal cases.
In addition to the above, there is one more way in which you can launch a warrant search. But, this option only works when the warrant check is meant to find the arrest orders in your name and you intend to sort these warrants out. Yes, I am talking about approaching bail bond agents/agencies.
These services use public databases as well as their connections in law enforcement and judicial agencies to find out about active warrants. Plus, if they do find arrest warrants in your name, they can also tell you about the options available to handle the matter, including if the warrant has a preset bond.
Going to the clerk of court’s office: All FL warrants are issued by the courts in the state. So, if the police have information on them, the judiciary will also have records pertaining to these orders in their database. That said, arrest warrants are usually issued by the magistrate’s court. 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. In larger counties, the Clerk of Court’s Office typically offers an online case search tool.
In areas where an online service is not available, you can visit the office of the clerk of court for a warrant lookup. Generally, the lobby has public service terminals that can be used to 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 address of the courthouse in your county, use the details on https://www.flcourts.org/Florida-Courts/Court-Locations. Click on the name of your county to get contact information, including directions to the courthouse and the URLs of the websites of the courthouse 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 https://www.flclerks.com/default.aspx. Use the “Find a Clerk” tool and pick the name of your county from the dropdown menu to get to the website of the local Clerk of Court’s Office.
As mentioned above, this is mostly a free service, but a few offices do 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, is 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 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 local police station and spot crime and crime stoppers: Another way to find information on local outstanding 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 FBIs 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 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.
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 lapsed since the case was filed against you as well as your current location.
Felony prosecutions: At the minimum, the state has 4 years to bring the charge against you. In case of life felonies (those punishable with a life sentence or capital punishment), there is no statute of limitations. In terms of arrest warrants, this means 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 will be extradited to the issuing county in Florida.
Misdemeanors prosecutions: 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 which are past the statute of limitations: It is obvious to wonder what happens to arrest warrants when the statute of limitation has been exceed 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, alias capias, bench warrants: Like other warrants, these too are not limited by an 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 have to answer for these as well.
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.