Washington Warrant Search
Conducting a Washington Warrant Search can help individuals determine whether there are any active warrants for their arrest or someone they know in the state.
A warrant is a legal paper issued by Washington courts authorizing police officers to take a specific action, such as arresting an individual, searching a property, or seizing property.
Proving probable cause is a prerequisite for the issuance of a warrant by the court. Before a judge may issue a warrant, the petitioning police officer must provide sufficient grounds.
There are several warrants that a Washington court can issue, such as arrest warrants, search warrants, and bench warrants. The specific information contained in a state warrant may vary depending on the type of warrant but generally includes the following to be valid:
- Name and description of the targeted person or property on the warrant
- Probable cause for the warrant, which outlines why law enforcement officers seek to take the specific action authorized by the warrant
- The warrant issuance date and time
- The name and signature of the judge or magistrate who issued the warrant
- The scope of the warrant, which outlines the specific actions that law enforcement officers are authorized to take, such as searching a particular location or arresting a specific individual
- Any restrictions or limitations on the warrant, such as a time limit
How Long Does a Warrant Stay Active in Washington?
Washington State has several types of warrants, each with different rules for their expiration.
Arrest and bench warrants in Washington do not have an expiration date. They will remain active or valid until the suspect is apprehended, the issuing court recalls the warrant, the individual appears in court, or the individual is located and brought before the court.
On the other hand, most Washington search warrants are generally executable within a specific time frame set by the court and typically become invalid after ten days of their issuance, as per RCW 69.50.502.
Regarding the statute of limitations, most Washington warrants typically have seven-year expiration from the issue date if not served.
But, if a warrant expires, a prosecutor may ask the court to renew it, or the court may initiate to do it. For example, Washington courts often reinstate bench warrants for DUI offenders after it expires.
It is worth noting that the issuing court may revoke the warrants in case of an error or a change in the underlying facts. In addition, certain warrants may be canceled or vacated if the defendant takes appropriate actions, such as showing up in court or paying any outstanding penalties.
What Are the Most Common Warrants in Washington?
The following are the most typical types of warrants you may discover while conducting a Washington Warrant Search:
Washington Arrest Warrant
As per Criminal Rule 2.2, a Washington arrest warrant is a court order issued by a judge or magistrate allowing law enforcement officers to arrest an individual suspected of violating state law. In addition to a judge or magistrate, a court clerk may have the authority to issue an arrest warrant.
A court typically issues this warrant after a peace officer or prosecutor presents evidence that provides probable cause to think that a person committed a crime. Probable cause means that the officer has a reasonable belief, based on specific facts and circumstances, that a person has violated a law.
The current address is an essential prerequisite for the issue of an arrest warrant. The state's Department of Licenses, the District Court Information System, and the Department of Corrections database for those under supervision or incarcerated individuals will often provide this address to law enforcement.
However, this may not be necessary if the defendant is unknown, already detained, or has been in court for the same criminal procedure.
Once the warrant is issued, peace officers can arrest the individual anytime and bring them before a court to face the charges specified in the warrant.
It is important to note that an arrest warrant is not proof of guilt but a legal tool allowing law enforcement officers to take an individual into custody for further investigation or trial.
Can Washington Peace Officers Arrest You Without a Warrant?
Under RCW 10.31.100, peace officers can arrest without a warrant under certain circumstances.
If a police officer has reasonable cause to think that a suspect has or is committing a felony, the officer can arrest the individual without a warrant.
For a simple misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor, police officers may only arrest a person without a warrant if they witness the violation, except for the following circumstances:
- If the crime includes bodily violence or threats of physical harm to a person or property
- If a person unlawfully possesses a firearm or other dangerous weapon on elementary or secondary school premises
What Information Must an Arrest Warrant in Washington Have To Be Valid?
In Washington, an arrest warrant must include specific information to be valid. Some of the essential information that must be in a Washington arrest warrant include:
- The name and address of the arrestee, if known
- The nature of the offense(s) for which the person is being arrested
- The name and signature of the judge or magistrate who issued the warrant
- The issuance date and time of the warrant
- The bail amount or other conditions for the individual's release, if applicable
- The jurisdiction and authority that issued the warrant
Suppose any essential information is missing or there is no probable cause to support the warrant. In that case, the warrant may be invalid, and any arrest made according to it may be contested in court.
Washington Search Warrant
Under Criminal Rule 2.3, a Washington search warrant authorizes the bearer to search a specific property or place, such as a residence, business, or vehicle, and seize evidence related to a criminal investigation specified by the warrant.
Law enforcement must provide an affidavit or declaration that provides probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime is at the specified location to obtain a search warrant in Washington.
The affidavit must describe the specific person or place to be searched and the items or property police officers may seize.
A law enforcement agency or prosecution may obtain this warrant if a search is likely to disclose the following:
- Evidence of a criminal act
- Illegal objects or items used to conduct a crime, or items held illegally
- Weapons or other items used or stored with the intent to commit a crime
- Counterfeit coins, machinery, or materials used to manufacture them
- A person to be arrested or an individual legally detained
- Gaming devices used or kept at illicit gambling establishments or other locations
A police officer must execute the search warrant issued in a specified time frame, typically within ten days. Otherwise, it becomes null and invalid. The executing officer must return the warrant to the court during this time. In addition, the police officer must provide the court with a list of the items seized from the crime scene.
What Constitutes an Invalid Washington Search Warrant?
A Washington search warrant may become invalid and unconstitutional if it does not meet specific legal requirements. Below are some reasons why a Washington search warrant becomes invalid:
- Lack of probable cause
- If law enforcement officers provide false information or misrepresent facts in the affidavit in support of the search warrant
- Lack of specificity or if the warrant is too vague or overbroad
- If the information in the affidavit is too old since the probable cause for the search must be current and based on recent information
- If a non-authority issued the warrant
If any of these issues are present, a Washington search warrant may become defective, and any evidence obtained during the search may be concealed and not admissible in court.
Moreover, a police officer who searches a private house or a person without a proper search warrant commits a gross misdemeanor, according to RCW 10.79.040. This officer may face a $5,000 fine, one-year imprisonment, or both.
Washington Bench Warrant
The bench warrant is among the most common warrants during a Washington Warrant Search.
Washington bench warrant authorizes law enforcement to arrest the person identified in the warrant and bring them before the court.
In Washington, a court issues this warrant when a civil or criminal defendant violates a court order. But an individual's failure to appear in court is why most state bench warrants are issued.
What is Failure to Appear in Washington?
Following RCW 10.79.040, a Washington failure to appear (FTA) is when a person does not attend a scheduled court appearance, such as a hearing or trial. It could result in a court issuing an arrest warrant, leading to additional legal penalties.
If the offender has a simple or gross misdemeanor charge, it could lead to another simple misdemeanor. If the underlying offense is a felony, the individual is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. In Washington, misdemeanors are punishable by up to a fine of $5,000 and a maximum of one year in jail.
The court may suspend the person's driver's license if the FTA is related to a traffic violation or a DUI charge.
Washington Failure to Pay Warrant
Under RCW 10.01.180, a Washington Failure to Pay Warrant (FTP) is a legal order issued by a court when an individual fails to pay a due fine or court-ordered fee. The court issues this warrant to compel the individual to pay the outstanding amount.
Once a court issues an FTP warrant, law enforcement officers can arrest the individual named in the document and bring them before the court to explain why they have failed to pay the fine or fee. If the FTP is intentional, the individual may face additional penalties.
FTP carries a jail sentence. A violator risks one day in jail for every $25 due. If the court imposes the fine or costs due to a conviction for a misdemeanor, the offender will serve 30 days in jail.
However, if the court determines that the defendant lacks the financial means to make the payment, it may not penalize the defendant for FTP. The court will only punish those who can pay but are unwilling to do so.
To determine an individual's payment capacity, a judge considers the following factors:
- The defendant's financial responsibilities, such as alimony and child support, and regular expenses
- Income and property of the defendant
- If the defendant is mentally ill or homeless
- Paying efforts made by the defendant
How To Perform Warrant Search in Washington?
There are several ways how you can perform Washington Warrant Search.
A Sheriff's Office or police department in Washington can tell you if you or someone else has an outstanding warrant.
You can search for warrants at county Sheriff's Offices in person or on their websites. For example, the King County Sheriff's Office's Criminal Warrants Unit lists pending warrants on its website.
Another method to find warrant records is through the Washington Access to Criminal History (WATCH) of the Washington State Patrol. You can sign up for an account and get access to the agency's criminal records, including information about warrants.
In addition, the Department of Corrections has a tool that you can use to find out about people who have secretary warrants out for their arrest. You can search with a name, DOC number, type of crime, or county.
Lastly, apart from the Sheriff's Office or police department, you can discover outstanding warrants in Washington by asking the court clerk that issued them.
If you discover a Washington warrant for your arrest, it is best to turn yourself in. Self-reporting may show the court that you accept responsibility for your actions and may lead to a more favorable outcome in your case.
It is vital to take any warrant seriously and address it promptly. Failure to do so can result in additional charges and penalties.