Texas Court Records
Texas Warrant Search
Texas warrants are writs typically issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, a judge, or a magistrate authorizing law enforcement personnel to carry out an action (search or arrest) without risk of civil or criminal liability.
A warrant is obtained where the police present an affidavit as proof of probable cause that a crime was committed and an individual is suspected of committing the crime or is in possession of items connected to the crime. In Texas, it is also issued when a person fails to appear for a court hearing or disregards fines, parking tickets (administrative citations), or other court orders.
A Texas warrant search may be necessary upon reasonable suspicion of crime by a law enforcement officer. Requests for records of active Texas warrants or warrant information can be directed to local county sheriff's offices, the Office of Court Administration, or the local county courts. The researcher may also conduct a criminal history search from the Crime Records Division (CRD) at the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Are Warrants Public Records in Texas?
Yes. Rule 12.4 of the Texas Rules Of Judicial Administration provides that Judicial records in Texas are open to members of the public except those exempt from disclosure by the statute. The Texas Rules Of Judicial Administration is a framework of rules guiding access to judicial records. It defines the term' judicial record' to mean any record made or maintained by a court in the regular course of business but not pertaining to its adjudicative function, regardless of whether that function relates to a specific case (Rule 12.2 Definitions).
Article 18.01.(b), Chapter 18 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure (CCP) states that an affidavit for a search warrant will not become public information until the search warrant has been executed. Additionally, confidential information contained in warrants may be redacted to protect the concerned parties' privacy or prevent interference with ongoing investigations. Warrants resolved, recalled, or expunged alongside criminal or arrest records by court order are also restricted from public access.
Types of Warrants in Texas:
In Texas, warrants come in various forms, each serving a specific purpose. All forms of warrants or writs empower law enforcement agency officers to carry out an action that ordinarily constitutes disregard or contempt for human rights. The most common is the permission to arrest a person or search their premises or personal property for evidence of a crime.
Arrest Warrant: A Texas arrest warrant is a written order from a judge or magistrate. It is issued when a peace officer provides an affidavit showing that an individual has committed an offense in contravention of the state's criminal laws. An arrest warrant authorizes the police to arrest a person and take them into custody.
Bench Warrant: A Texas bench warrant is a court order for the arrest of a defendant who has failed to appear for a scheduled court hearing without providing reasonable cause for absence. It is an order issued to the police or responsible law enforcement agency to arrest a person and bring them before the court.
Search Warrant: A Texas search warrant is an order from a magistrate authorizing a peace officer to search a person or their property, seize any incriminating material, and return them to the court as evidence.
Capias: In Texas, a capias can only be issued by a judge or a clerk on a judge's order. It is similar to an arrest warrant in that it results in taking a person into custody. It is, however, different in timing. An arrest warrant is executed pre-trial before a criminal proceeding ensues. But, a capias is issued after a criminal court case commences (after bail or before trial). A capias may be issued.
- When a verdict is given against a defendant in their absence,
- On bail forfeiture, the defendant fails to appear in court, leading the judge to make an order to confiscate the posted bail amount, or the defendant disregards the term of bail;
- When a surety notifies the court that they no longer intend to be responsible for the defendant.
Capias Pro Fine: The capias pro fine is a writ issued post-judgment to enforce the payment of unpaid fines and court costs. Issuing a capias pro fine permits a peace officer to make an arrest and subsequently bring the arrested person before the court, but this doesn't make it an arrest warrant or a capias. A court must recall a capias pro fine if, before the writ was issued, the defendant communicated difficulty paying in compliance with the court order or willingly presented themselves before the court to resolve the writ genuinely. A capias pro fine may be issued electronically.
Blue Warrant: A blue warrant is issued regarding parolees who have likely violated or not satisfied one or more terms of their parole and are at risk of losing their freedom. A blue warrant calls for the immediate arrest of the parolee and notifies parolees of possible parole or changes to the conditions of their parole.
What is a Search Warrant in Texas?
Article 18.01., CCP defines a search warrant as a written order issued by a magistrate (in his capacity as a judge) and directed to only peace officers and law enforcement personnel. It gives them legal and unequivocal power to search for any property or item, seize the said item, and bring the confiscated item before the court. Under the CCP, search warrants will only be issued where an affidavit is provided that shows sufficient facts to establish probable cause for the search.
The affidavit and warrant (if signed) must identify the property or subject to be searched or seized with particularity. This includes - A specific address, a full description of the building and surrounding areas, unit structures, flat number, or storage unit number. For persons- Full name or other names (street names), age, gender, physical descriptions, scars or identifying marks, and ethnicity.
A Texas court may issue a search warrant for a person or property and seize (Art. 18.02. CCP):
- Stolen property or property acquired in any manner that makes it a criminal offense;
- Property specially created or modified for or often used to commit an offense;
- Arms and munitions kept or made for riots or insurrection;
- Weapons prohibited by the penal code;
- Obscene materials kept or packaged for sale or commercial distribution;
- Gambling materials;
- A drug-controlled substance, chemical substances, or other controlled substances made, prepared or stored in defiance of the law;
- A property or possession which is contraband under the law;
- Instruments that aided the commission of an offense.
The affidavit supporting the search warrant must prove a factual rationale for concluding that there is an excellent chance that a search will uncover incriminating material. The affidavit must contain facts, not mere speculations. The magistrate can choose to examine the officer/applicant for a search warrant and any person whose testimony the application is based on under oath. Only the items listed in the search warrant and in Article 18.02. may be seized.
According to the law in Texas, search warrants must be executed within 15 days for warrants to search and seize DNA specimens (including blood and saliva), ten days for warrants issued under article 18B.354, or subchapter G-1, or chapter 18B, and three days for all other items. This timeline excludes the day the warrant is issued and the day it is executed. After a search warrant is executed or recalled, it becomes sealed. However, the magistrate clerk shall make a copy of the affidavit available for public scrutiny.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Search Warrant?
According to Chapter 18 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, "only a judge of a municipal court of record or a county court who is an attorney licensed by the State of Texas, a statutory county court judge, a district court judge, a judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, including the presiding judge, a justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, including the chief justice, or a magistrate with jurisdiction over criminal cases serving a district court may issue warrants under Article 18.02. (a) (10)". There is no definite or statutory imposed time frame for obtaining a search warrant. A warrant may be issued immediately, in a few days or weeks. It depends on how long the state law enforcement personnel can type and file their affidavit establishing probable cause.
What is an Arrest Warrant in Texas?
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 15.01. explains arrest warrants as written orders from a magistrate directed to the police or a specific person, instructing him to take a person accused of a crime into custody to face the punishment according to the law. Regardless of form, an arrest warrant must possess the following substantial requirements:
- It must indicate the name of the person to be arrested if known (and any recent changes if applicable). There must be a reasonable, particularly identifiable description of the individual if unknown.
- It must state that the named individual is accused of a criminal offense, stating the offense.
- A magistrate must sign it, and his office and signature must be appended on the body of the warrant.
- It must be issued in the name of "The State of Texas".
An arrest warrant shall not be issued without probable cause, evidenced by an affidavit. It must state the first name of the accused or a reasonably particular description, the time, date, and place the crime occurred, and sufficient statements of facts to support the reason for a probable cause of suspicion that the above individual committed the offense.
A person named in an arrest warrant can resolve it by submitting themselves to the law enforcement agency, paying the associated fines or fees(bail), contacting the court to schedule a court date, or hiring a criminal defense attorney.
Arrest Warrant Lookup in Texas
Texas does not maintain a central repository or general resources for active warrants. However, researchers can find information on warrants and conduct their searches with resources from the issuing county courts or law enforcement agencies. Here are some options for finding active arrest warrants in Texas:
- Check the websites of local sheriff's offices or police departments. For example, the Harris County Sheriff's Office Criminal Warrants Division maintains an online misdemeanor warrants database. Users can search for information by name, date of birth, and an 8-digit SPN number. Likewise, the Austin Police Department maintains an online search service that helps users find active warrants in the city. The same search parameters are typically required to conduct a search on any law enforcement site.
- Search local superior courts: A request to inspect copies of judicial records must be in writing, contain sufficient identifiable information about the record, and be directed to the court clerk's office.
How to Find Out If You Have a Warrant in Texas
If an individual wants to find out whether or not there is an active arrest warrant in their name, they should first contact their county/city courts and then the sheriff's office or police department.
In Texas, requests for warrant searches have to be in writing. Individuals can then call the court phone lines or visit the court clerk and inquire about the records in person.
Some law enforcement agencies have online databases for warrant searches. The involved party can utilize such search platforms. Where this option is not available, such individuals will have to visit the police department to make inquiries. If there is an active arrest warrant or a writ authorizing the police to take the individual into custody, the police can execute that right immediately.
Alternatively, a person can mail a request form for their criminal history data to the Texas Department of Safety for $10. The request form and $10 payment should be mailed to:
Texas Department of Public Safety
Crime Records Division,
PO Box 15999,
Austin, TX 78761.
Free Warrant Search in Texas
Interested persons in Texas can look for records of active warrants at no extra cost through local courts and police department websites in the issuing county. However, this option is limited to the specific city or county where the warrant was issued. Researchers may also find warrants issued in Texas through third-party aggregate sites. Privately owned sites allow users to find government records by county for every county. There are no geographical restrictions. Although third-party sites are often payment-based services, many offer a limited amount of free searches or completely free services.
How to Find Out If Someone Has A Warrant Online
Texas has no state-owned central resource for active warrants. To find information about warrants online, researchers should check the websites of local county courts and city and county police departments.
Alternatively, interested persons can find warrants on third-party aggregate sites. Third-party sites are often subscription-based or paid services but offer more options to the searcher because they're not restricted to specific counties. However, many third-party apps offer cheaper or even cost-free search options. To find information on warrants, the searcher must provide the names of the persons in the warrant (first and last name, date of birth, or location (county)).
How Long Do Warrants Last in Texas?
Warrants in Texas do not have an auto-expiration date. They remain active and actionable until resolved, served, or recalled. There is no statute of limitations for warrants in Texas, except search warrants. Search warrants are executory for the following number of days, not including the day it is issued and the day it is served: 15 days for warrants to search and seize DNA specimens (including blood and saliva), 10 days for warrants issued under article 18B.354, or subchapter G-1, or chapter 18B, and 3 days for any other purpose outside the aforementioned (Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 18, Article 18.07.).
For arrest warrants, once it is issued, it does not expire. The police or other law enforcement officers are permitted by law to effectuate the arrest anywhere, anytime, even in 10 years. A warrant may be resolved when:
- A person submits themselves to the police for questioning or detention
- Posts a bond to guarantee an appearance in subsequent court hearings,
- Attends future court hearings on scheduled dates
- Provides genuine reasons for missing previous court hearings.
A judge may quash or recall a warrant in the above scenarios. However, subjects must exercise caution by seeking legal counsel as soon as they are informed of a warrant in their name.