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Washington Court Records

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Washington Warrant Search

Washington warrants are legal documents that authorize the police to carry out an action, including apprehending an individual or searching a specified location or person. Typically, judges or magistrates issue these documents.

A Washington warrant search describes the process of querying official or unofficial sources to determine if someone has an active or outstanding warrant in Washington State. The search may be conducted through various government agencies, including the State Department of Corrections, Washington State Patrol, county sheriff's offices, and the state courts. Warrants are considered a part of Washington criminal court records and are featured within arrest records whether or not charges are consequently pressed. A warrant search can provide inquirers information about the nature of the offense (of the arrested person), their arrest location or site (where applicable), their address, and other pertinent details.

Are Warrants Public Records in Washington?

Yes, warrants are public under the Washington Public Records Act. Under the Act, public agencies must provide access to governmental records upon request. The state courts, law enforcement agencies, and other criminal justice agencies, being public bodies and subject to the Act, release records of warrants to the public.

However, there are some limitations to records a person can obtain under the Washington Public Records Act. For instance, information that infringes on privacy rights or interferes with law enforcement investigative functions is often exempt from public disclosure. Certain warrants may also be exempt from public viewing based on court orders and state or federal laws.

Types of Warrants in Washington

Washington courts issue various types of warrants. Some common examples include:

Bench Warrants: Bench warrants are legal orders issued by a judge that empower law enforcement to seize a person on sight and bring them before the court. Judges often issue bench warrants when a civil or criminal defendant fails to pay court fines (RCW 10.01.180 (1)), fails to appear in court, breaches the conditions of their probation, or otherwise violates a court order. Common bench warrants in Washington include Failure To Appear (FTA) and Failure to Pay.

Arrest Warrant: Per Criminal Rule 2.2, an arrest warrant in Washington is an official court directive by a judge, magistrate, or, occasionally, a court clerk. It authorizes law enforcement officers to apprehend a person suspected of violating state laws. Typically, the court issues an arrest warrant following the presentation of evidence by a peace officer or prosecutor, demonstrating probable cause that an individual committed a crime. Probable cause signifies that the officer has a reasonable belief, supported by specific facts and circumstances, that the person violated a law. 

Search Warrant: Per Washington's Criminal Rule 2.3, search warrants grant the police authorization to search a specific property or location, such as a residence, business, or vehicle, and seize evidence relevant to a criminal investigation.

Fugitive Warrant: Per RCW 10.34.010, a fugitive warrant authorizes the sheriff or designated officer named in the warrant to pursue and capture an accused person in any county within the state.

Extradition Warrant: According to Chapter 10.88 RCW, an extradition warrant authorizes peace officers to deliver an accused person to an authorized agent of a demanding state.

What is a Search Warrant in Washington?

Washington Criminal Rule 2.3 defines a search warrant as a court document that grants the police permission to search a specific property or location and seize items specified in the warrant. According to RCW 10.79.035, a magistrate may issue a search warrant to search and seize any evidence related to a crime, contraband, proceeds of criminal activities, items unlawfully possessed, and weapons or items used in or likely to be used in a crime. The warrant can also be released to arrest individuals for whom there is probable cause or who are being unlawfully restrained. 

A search warrant's issuance depends on the magistrate's satisfaction that probable cause exists for the search and seizure. According to the Fourth Amendment, probable cause may be established by an oath or affirmation. In Washington, the requesting police officer must submit a search warrant application to the court by email, telephone, or another reliable method. The magistrate then reviews the application and, if finding probable cause, will either issue the warrant or authorize another person to sign on their behalf. Often, courts issue warrants in response to requests made by prosecutors or law enforcement officers.

When executing a search warrant, police officers must give the property owner a copy of the warrant. Washington search warrants typically contain the name of the location or individual to be searched, the properties or items to be seized, and the period within which the executing officer must return the warrant to the court (no later than ten days). Also, any items recovered from the search must be submitted to the court.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Search Warrant?

Washington does not impose a timeframe within which a search warrant must be obtained. The time it takes to acquire a search warrant depends on varying factors, such as the sufficiency of evidence presented in the search warrant application and the magistrate's availability. Overall, the warrant may be issued after some minutes or days.

What is an Arrest Warrant in Washington?

Per RCW 10.88.320, an arrest warrant is an official document authorizing law enforcement to apprehend a person suspected of a crime and bring them before a judge, magistrate, or court to respond to the accusations. Like other warrants in Washington, an arrest warrant requires a judge's signature for issuance. A legitimate arrest warrant contains information regarding the alleged offense and conditions for arrest, including:

  • The issuance date and time
  • The bail amount or other conditions for the individual's release, if applicable
  • The jurisdiction and authority that issued the warrant

Usually, a certified copy of the charge, complaint, and affidavit that led to the warrant is attached.

It is essential to understand that an arrest warrant does not serve as proof of guilt; instead, it is a legal mechanism that enables law enforcement to detain civilians for further investigation or trial. Also, although arrest warrants are necessary under state law, peace officers may still make arrests without a warrant.

Arrest Warrant Lookup in Washington

Washington has numerous statewide and local resources that interested individuals can use to conduct arrest warrant searches. Some options individuals may explore include:

  • Querying local sheriff's offices: Local law enforcement agencies, like the county sheriff's offices and police departments, enforce active warrant orders issued by the courts, including felony and civil arrest warrants. Often, one must visit these county offices in person to find warrant data. Many Washington sheriff's offices do not provide such information over the phone, by email, or online to safeguard privacy and prevent erroneous arrests. Information on requesting warrant information is often available on a county sheriff's website or by calling the office.
  • State Department of Corrections: The Washington State Department of Corrections Warrant Search is the central database for looking up individuals with outstanding secretary's warrants in Washington. The database can be searched with a first name, last name, DOC number, crime, or county, or one can scroll to the warrants list on the search homepage. The search results include the warrant subject's name and physical characteristics (height, weight, eye color, hair color, and race), DOC number, supervision county, crime type, warrant type, and issuance date. e. 
  • Washington State Courts: Interested individuals may find active warrants on a case by contacting the court where a case was filed. Washington's Administrative Office of the Court's (AOC) website also offers a free Search Case Records service to determine the presiding court.

How to Find Out If You Have a Warrant in Washington

Active warrants in Washington are searchable through a sheriff's office or police department. Since law enforcement officers are responsible for executing warrants, they maintain warrant records and provide such information to the public. This information may also be shared on the agency's website, such as a wanted persons page. An example is the Washington State Patrol's Most Wanted website.

Individuals can also locate outstanding warrants through an issuing court clerk's office.

Free Warrant Search in Washington

In-person and online warrant inquiries to courts or local law enforcement in Washington are typically free to charge. For example, users of the Search Warrant Record Access Portal provided by the King County Superior Court Clerk's Office are not charged a fee to obtain local warrant information. However, a fee may apply to obtain copies of a record from an agency.

How to Find Out If Someone Has A Warrant Online

Online warrant searches on government websites are a convenient option for determining whether someone has a warrant in Washington. However, although most agencies update their records daily, one can miss a recently issued warrant due to differing update schedules.

An inquirer may also utilize third-party aggregate sites to locate a Washington warrant. Many third-party sites provide free basic searches. However, one may pay a fee to receive the results.

Any person searching for warrant information online must often provide, at a minimum, a last name. Other information that may be required includes the subject's age or date of birth.

How Long Do Warrants Last in Washington?

Different laws and validity durations affect warrants issued in Washington.

  • Arrest and Bench Warrants: These warrants do not expire and remain active unless the court revokes them or the suspect voluntarily surrenders, dies, or is caught. In some cases, an issuing court may rescind a warrant if it believes it was issued erroneously or if new facts about the case emerge.
  • Search Warrants: Washington search warrants expire ten days from issuance, as Criminal Rule 2.3(c) states. However, the court may reissue if probable cause exists.
Washington Warrant Search
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