For the most part, arrest warrants are issued with the intention of being made part of the public record. Under some circumstances, a judge will allow a sealed arrest warrant to be executed, but courts generally want defendants to know that their presence and compliance is being ordered in a judicial or legal process.
The first thing to know about searching for arrest warrants is that doing may not be inconsequential. Depending on the laws, rules and practices of the jurisdiction where the warrant is issued, law enforcement officers or judicial agents may be paying close attention to the parties searching for these court orders. In other words, a warrant search could actually lead to an arrest in some circumstances.
Many court jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies publish a list of outstanding arrest warrants on their websites. Assuming that the case is being handled locally, a good place to start would be the website of the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the initial court filing took place. Jurisdictions with municipal police departments may also offer access to their warrant databases, and the same goes for statewide law enforcement agencies.
When conducting online warrant searches, individuals who are not ready to turn themselves in should take some precautions. Depending on the law enforcement resources allocated to each case, officers or detectives may ask their IT departments for the server logs showing IP address and device information on particular searches; for this reason, it may not be a good idea to use a personal smartphone or computer that can be physically tracked down.
Online arrest warrant inquiries can conducted discreetly by means of a proxy or VPN connection; alternatively, they can be made from a busy public Wi-Fi hotspot that is not being monitored by video surveillance.
Individuals who are ready to turn themselves in can simply walk into a courthouse or police department and directly inquire about their status; this will invariably lead to an arrest, but being taken into custody is not always guaranteed since an order to appear at a later date may also be issued.
A smarter, although certainly not free, method to look for arrest warrants would be to retain an attorney to do so; this may be ideal for individuals who may be facing serious charges and who are concerned about what may happen after the arrest. Criminal defense attorneys can also check related court cases to estimate whether a sealed warrant may have been issued.
In the case of individuals who may be wanted for probation violations, a bail bonds agent can check for outstanding warrants and immediately make arrangements to post bail if it looks like it will be made available.