Many Indianans who have warrants are well aware that they exist. However, some people who have warrants would be surprised to learn that they do. And others suspect that they might have one but are unsure.
Fortunately, there are ways to check for outstanding warrants in your name, but criminal defense lawyers offer the optimal and safest way to determine the existence of an outstanding arrest warrant. With the help of a defense attorney, you will not only learn of warrants you have but also get sound legal counsel on the next steps you should take.
What Is a Warrant in Indiana?
A warrant is an authorization given to law enforcement authorities to carry out certain actions that would usually be unlawful without said authorization. In most cases, the authorization comes from a magistrate or a judge and typically must be based on probable cause that a crime has been or will be committed.
There are several types of warrants:
- Arrest warrants
- Search warrants
- Bench warrants
- No-knock warrants
Arrest warrants may be divided into categories, such as misdemeanor warrants, felony warrants, and fugitive warrants, with the latter two being the most serious.
Bench warrants are like arrest warrants but are typically issued only when an individual fails to comply with specific court orders. And search warrants are authorizations for law enforcement officers to seek out evidence of criminal behavior but not to make an arrest.
Why Could You Get a Warrant in Northwest Indiana
The following are a few reasons why you might have an arrest warrant issued in your name:
- Failure to comply with a court order
- Failure to appear in court
- Violation of probation
- Contempt of court
- Failure to pay child support
- Being suspected of committing a crime
In every case, it is better for individuals with Indiana arrest warrants to take the steps necessary to resolve the warrant before they are arrested by a law enforcement officer.
What Are the Different Types of Warrants?
Because there are various types of warrants in Indiana, knowing what type you may have in your name will help you understand the potential consequences you might be facing.
— Indiana Search Warrants
Search warrants are frequently used in criminal investigations to build cases against individuals suspected of committing crimes. They are judicial authorizations that allow law enforcement officers to search for specific evidence of criminal activity in a specific location. Without an Indiana search warrant, law enforcement officials cannot conduct searches unless an exception to the warrant requirement exists.
The Fourth Amendment mandates that probable cause that a crime has been or will be committed must exist and that the police must present this probable cause to a magistrate or judge before a warrant can be issued.
When executing an Indiana warrant search, law enforcement officials may look for and seize:
- Unlawfully obtained property
- Property that cannot be possessed lawfully
- Evidence of a crime
- Tools and implements of criminal activity
However, search warrants must contain a level of specificity regarding the location to be searched and the items to be seized.
— Indiana Arrest Warrants
An Indiana arrest warrant authorizes police officers to take a person into custody because they are suspected of committing a crime. Generally, in order for an arrest warrant to be valid, there must be a sworn affidavit of probable cause that backs it up. If a grand jury returns an indictment against an individual, a judge may issue an arrest warrant based solely on the grand jury indictment.
Once an arrest warrant has been issued, the police are typically free to proceed against an individual and take them into custody whenever they choose to. Officers may show up at a person's home, work, or school for the arrest.
Typical information found in an arrest warrant includes:
- The name and description of the person to be arrested
- The arresting offense
- The court clerk's and judge's signatures
- The date of the warrant
- The name of the agency executing the warrant
The warrant may also include specific terms for its execution.
— Indiana Bench Warrant
An Indiana bench warrant is a warrant issued by a judge against a person who fails to comply with a court order. They are similar to arrest warrants in that they allow police officers to take an individual into custody at will.
Typical instances when an Indiana bench warrant is issued include:
- Failure to appear in court
- Failure to comply with a court order
- Failure to pay court fines
It is important to note that failure to appear to face criminal charges in Indiana is its own criminal charge. It is a Class A misdemeanor if the underlying charge is a misdemeanor and a Level 6 felony when the underlying charge is a felony. This means that individuals with these types of bench warrants can face additional jail or prison time on top of what they are given for their initial charges.
— Indiana Fugitive Warrant
A fugitive warrant is a type of Indiana arrest warrant for individuals who intentionally avoid criminal charges by leaving the jurisdiction in which the arrest warrant was issued. They are written in such a way as to allow an arrest outside of a warrant's original jurisdiction and to foster collaboration between multiple law enforcement agencies of different jurisdictions with the goal of bringing an offender to justice.
— Indiana No-Knock Warrant
A no-knock warrant is a type of warrant that allows police officers to forgo announcing their presence before entering premises. They are typically issued when the announcement of the presence of the police would likely lead to the destruction of evidence or put the officers' lives in danger.
Although some jurisdictions within the state permit their use, no-knock warrants are not allowed everywhere in Indiana. For instance, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department forbids their use.
How to Find Out if Someone Has a Warrant in Indiana
The worst way to learn of the existence of an arrest or bench warrant is to be arrested. Fortunately, there are other ways to find out whether you have one that won't put you in immediate danger of being taken into custody.
1. Do an Indiana Warrant Search at the County Level
Many counties within the state, especially the larger ones, allow you to perform a direct warrant search in your name over the internet. Keep in mind that some counties, especially the smaller ones, may not have complete information regarding warrants or any information at all online.
Some of the counties that do offer this service online include:
- Lake County — Crown Point: lakecountysheriff.com/warrant/warrant.php
- Allen County — Fort Wayne: www.themostwanted.net
If an online search is not available, you can call the county sheriff for the information you need.
2. Contact the Indiana Police Department
You can contact an Indiana police department directly over the phone to learn of an arrest or bench warrant. But keep in mind that the department you contact may choose not to give you this information.
Additionally, the department will likely attempt an on-the-spot interrogation of you in an attempt to determine your location and apprehend you if you do have an active arrest or bench warrant in your name. Hence, it may be wise to have someone else call for you.
3. Work with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Seeking help from a criminal defense attorney is a preferred method of finding out whether you have a warrant in your name. If you choose this option, your attorney will conduct a thorough warrant search without putting you in jeopardy of an unexpected arrest. They will also be instrumental in helping you resolve the warrant and any other issues you have.
4. Contact Your Local Bailsman
Bailsmen in Indiana can be very helpful in determining whether you have a warrant issued in your name. These professionals have access to databases and have relationships with law enforcement that allow them to quickly obtain warrant information in many instances.
5. Go to the District’s Federal Court
If you have a federal warrant out for your arrest, you will have to conduct your search at the federal level, starting with the federal district court.
Does an Online Warrant Search Provide Accurate Data?
The information you obtain from an online warrant search will typically be quite accurate, but there is no guarantee that it is error-free. You may find inaccurate data or mistakes. But generally, if you see a warrant in your name online, it is likely to be valid. On the other hand, if you do not find a warrant in your name, there may still be one in existence.
What to Do if You Discover that You Have a Warrant
If you conduct an Indiana warrant search and find out that you have a warrant, it is of utmost importance that you do not ignore the warrant. The courts tend to treat individuals who ignore warrants more harshly than those who take steps to resolve their warrants and criminal charges.
If you discover that you have a warrant:
- Do not panic
- Do not break the law in any way
- Do not flee the jurisdiction; this can prejudice your case significantly
- Read and analyze the warrant carefully to understand it in its entirety
- Do not turn yourself in without speaking with an experienced defense lawyer
- Hire legal counsel to help you resolve the warrant
Warrants are not likely to go away on their own, but an experienced criminal defense attorney can do much for your case. In some cases, they can file a motion with the court to have the warrant recalled. If the motion to have the warrant recalled is granted, you will no longer face the threat of arrest but will still be subject to the underlying criminal charges that led to the warrant being issued in the first place.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney at Stracci Law Group to Deal with Your Case
Although many are aware of their warrants, others are not. If you suspect that you may have an active warrant, it is important to verify whether you do or don't to avoid embarrassment, hassle, and further criminal penalties.
You can try various methods of conducting an Indiana warrant search, but none are as efficient and safe as hiring the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.