Are Warrants Public Record in Arkansas?
Yes. Per the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, warrants are open to public inspection and copying from various state and local custodial agencies. However, certain information surrounding a warrant can be exempt from public disclosure. For example, information regarding warrant informants is confidential. Also, all the documents filed with a warrant application are confidential until the warrant is executed by a law enforcement officer. Warrants may be held by the state courts or law enforcement agencies as part of an individual’s Arkansas criminal record.
What is a Warrant in Arkansas?
The United States Constitution awards citizens certain rights and freedoms. One being that the police cannot arrest, search them, or seize their properties without any justification. Hence, the establishment of "warrants".
A warrant is a paper signed by a judge or magistrate that allows law enforcement officers to perform an action that administers justice. Without it, the act would typically violate a person's rights. Per the law, the police need a warrant to arrest or search anyone unless a person committed a crime in an officer's presence or other exigent circumstances exist. Though warrants have distinct types, these documents are usually released to detain an individual or search their property or premises.
In Arkansas, the issuance and execution of any warrant must follow legal procedure. A common one being that these documents must be issued based on probable or reasonable cause, not merely hunches or hearsay. This means that there must be factual evidence—a witness, informant, circumstantial evidence, an officer's expertise, lawful observation, etc., that proves that a crime was or is being committed. Without this evidence, a judicial officer cannot authorize an arrest, search, seizure, or any other act requiring a warrant in the state.
How to Find Out if You Have a Warrant in Arkansas
The fastest way to find out if one has an outstanding warrant in Arkansas is to search a local law enforcement agency's website. The sheriff of a county will likely have this information available for public perusal. Thus, an interested individual will be able to find a warrant list or warrant search engine on the sheriff's website that will often contain or reveal the following information:
- The full name of the person named in the warrant
- The person's image, age, and gender. Other identifying features, including race, height, weight, and hair color, may be displayed too.
- The offense/charge
- The issue date
- The issuing court
- The Arkansas city where the warrant was signed
- The warrant number, and
- The bond amount
Another way to find a warrant is to request one's criminal history information from the Arkansas Department of Public Safety. However, this process may take longer and is more costly than if the subject of the warrant simply used a free warrant search tool on the sheriff's website or called the sheriff/police department of a county.
Records of warrants issued or executed in various jurisdictions are also maintained and by third-party websites. While third-party sites make accessing these records substantially easier, the information available on the sites may vary since they are not government run sources. To obtain warrant records from a third-party site, the requesting party may be required to provide:
- The personal information of the alleged suspect
- Information regarding the issuing officer
- The location where the warrant was issued.
How Long Does a Warrant Stay Active in Arkansas?
In most states of the country, a warrant stays active until it is executed or recalled. The State of Arkansas is no exception. Arkansas statute of limitation (SOL) laws do not apply to these matters.
Ordinarily, a judge or magistrate will issue an arrest, bench, or search warrant upon a grand jury indictment or an officer's legitimate request. Of these three common warrant types, the search warrant is the only one that must be executed within a specific period or it becomes invalid. The other two remain active until the subject of the warrant is arrested, turns him or herself in, or dies.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Warrant in Arkansas?
Generally, a law enforcement officer can get a warrant in an hour or two. The circuit judge, district judge, city judge, or magistrate will issue the warrant if there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed annd the defendant is responsible for it. Some warrants may take longer to process depending on the complexity of the case.
What is an Arkansas Search Warrant?
In Arkansas, law enforcement officers can search a person or property for several reasons. The most popular ones being to find evidence of criminal activity or seize weapons that can endanger a person or officer. These searches can also be conducted with an owner's written or oral consent ("consensual entry") or in emergencies where a failure to search will put a person's life or safety in peril ("exigent entry"). However, the authority to search is limited by the Fourth Amendment and Article 2, Section 15 of the Arkansas Constitution. Under these laws, the police cannot just search or seize anybody's property or person—they need a warrant.
A search warrant is an order issued and signed by a judge/magistrate that permits a law enforcement officer to enter and search someone's property. The warrant also lets the officer confiscate any item found on the property described by the warrant.
Typically, before a search warrant can be issued, there must be a determination of "probable cause". In simple terms, the warrant can only be issued based on an officer's sworn statement—that the officer reasonably believes, whether by legal observation, facts, or information, that a crime was or is being committed at a property.
Arkansas Rule of Criminal Procedure 13.2(b) describes the contents of a search warrant. These include:
- The issuing judge's or magistrate's identity
- The judicial officer's finding of reasonable cause
- The issuing date and place
- The object of the search (person, thing, or place to be searched and seized)
- The period after execution within which the warrant should be returned to the judicial officer. The limit is 5 days.
An Arkansas search warrant is valid for 60 days from the day of issuance. It cannot be executed afterward unless reissued, and this can only occur if the judicial officer determines that probable cause still exists. Also, search warrants in Arkansas are executable between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. The police cannot barge in after these hours unless the judge or magistrate authorizes a nighttime search upon determining that:
- The objects to be searched could be removed,
- The place to be searched cannot be speedily accessed, or
- The warrant can be safely or successfully executed at night.
However, it is not every time that the police need warrants to search a person or property. Arkansas law permits warrantless searches in certain situations, including:
- When the owner consents to the search. (For married couples, both parties must consent.)
- When the search will be conducted on an open field or area.
- Emergency/exigent circumstances:
- Hot pursuit of a felon.
- To stop the destruction of evidence.
- To stop the suspect of a jailable misdemeanor offense from escaping.
- To prevent serious bodily harm, death, or property destruction, etc.
- When the object of the search is an automobile, especially if it has been abandoned in a public place. The reason being that the automobile may be gone by the time the officer obtains a search warrant.
- When the incriminating item is in plain view, smell, or hearing of an officer who has the lawful right to be where the observation occurs.
- When the search is incident to a legal arrest.
- A pat-down search.
Furthermore, supervised parolees and probationers can be searched without a warrant at any time, whether day or night (Ark. Code Ann. § 16-93-106).
Ultimately, when a search warrant is issued against an individual, the party will not be served or notified of it, nor will the person be able to conduct an Arkansas warrant search to find it. This is because such notice can jeopardize a police investigation—the suspect may flee or destroy evidence.
What Can Make an Arkansas Search Warrant Invalid?
A search warrant issued in Arkansas can become invalid in two ways:
- When the execution period for the warrant (60 days from issuance) expires
- When the warrant's issuance or execution is unlawful.
Failure on the judicial or law enforcement officer's part to adhere to the law can lead to the acquittal of a defendant (the party who was searched). Not only this, but the defendant can argue the validity of the warrant at a "suppression hearing".If this motion is successful, the court can toss out evidence obtained from the search, no matter how relevant it is to the case. (This is known as the "exclusionary rule".)
Case law has several instances where a warrant was challenged on the basis that it was illegal. Some include:
- When the warrant did not justify a nighttime search. (Brady Andrew Langley v. State of Arkansas (1999))
- The officers failed to knock and announce. (Wilson v. Arkansas (1995))
- The warrant did not describe in detail the things to be seized or the location to be searched.
- No probable cause to issue the warrant. (Beshears v. State(1995))
- The information received from a confidential informant was unreliable. (Baxter v. State of Arkansas(1977))
- The officer omitted facts from the affidavit for a search warrant (State v. Rufus(1999))
How to Conduct an Active Warrant Search in Arkansas
A record seeker can conduct an active warrant search at law enforcement agencies in Arkansas. For example, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office provides online and in-person access to active warrant information. Here is how to conduct an active warrant search in Benton County:
- Go to the Sherrif’s website
- Click the “How Do I” link at the top bar
- Click “Warrants” from the dropdown menu to find the list of active warrants in the county.
- A requester can conduct a search:
- By name or age
- Clicking the letters on the site
- Scrolling to locate the specific information being sought
The search results reveal the fugitive’s name, age, offense, issue date, and warrant number. Alternatively, requesters can visit the Benton County Sheriff’s Office during business hours to retrieve active warrant information. The fugitive’s name or warrant number may be required for the search. The office is located at:
Benton County Sheriff’s Office
1300 SW 14th Street
Bentonville, AR 72712
Phone: (479) 271-1008
Free Warrant Search Options in Arkansas
Most County Sherrif Offices in Arkansas offer online and in-person options for conducting a free warrant search in the state. For example, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office has a Warrant Search tool that can be used to retrieve warrant information at no cost. The search criteria are by last name or first name. Individuals can also scroll down to view the latest 20 warrants issued in Washington County. Upon submitting a search, the requester can on the fugitive’s name for more information. Requesters can also check the Sherrif’s Most Wanted list to view warrant information for free. Alternatively, inquirers can visit the Washington County Sheriff’s Office from Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. The Office is located at:
Washington County Sheriff’s Office
1155 W. Clydesdale Drive
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Phone: (479) 444-5800
What is an Arrest Warrant in Arkansas?
An Arkansas arrest warrant authorizes the police to take an individual into custody for suspicion of criminal activity and bring the party before a judicial officer. Per Ark. Code Ann. § 16-81-104, this warrant can be issued by a circuit or district court judge, or magistrate.
Although state law (Ark. Code Ann. § 16-81-106) grants private persons the authority to carry out a citizen’s arrest in some situations, only a certified law enforcement officer can detain a person who has a warrant out for their arrest.
Arrest warrants, like search warrants, can only be released when a law enforcement officer establishes reasonable grounds that a person committed an offense. Generally, the warrant will state or describe:
- The identity of the individual to be detained.
- The alleged offense.
- The county where the crime was perpetrated and where the individual should be brought before a judicial officer.
- The issuing judge or magistrate.
- The issuing date.
Upon discovering an outstanding warrant (usually by carrying out an Arkansas warrant search), it is best to resolve it immediately to avoid arrest or further legal consequences. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can be invaluable in these situations. The lawyer can arrange for a bail bond agent, help prevent arrest, negotiate the time and place of surrender, prepare a defense, and more, without compromising the affected party's rights.
What is a Child Support Arrest Warrant in Arkansas?
A child support arrest warrant is a court order directing law enforcement officers to arrest a parent for the nonpayment of child support. Arkansas takes this default very seriously, and delinquent parents may find themselves facing criminal prosecution among other stiff penalties, such as the garnishment of wages, suspension of a driver's or professional license, revocation or denial of a passport, contempt of court action, seizure of property, and more.
Section 5-26-401 of the Arkansas Code describes the criminal penalties for nonsupport in the state. Depending on the child support owed, the parent can be charged with a Class A, B, C, or D felony. As a result, the payor can incur court and administrative costs, substantial fines, and even jail or prison time (Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-4-401 and 5-4-201).
For example, a payor who leaves the state to avoid paying child support will be charged with a Class D felony. As such, the parent can spend up to 6 years in prison and be liable for a fine of up to $10,000. Meanwhile, a parent who owes more than $25,000 in back child support is guilty of a Class B felony (5 to 20 years in jail and up to $15,000 in fines).
What is an Arkansas Bench Warrant?
In Arkansas, a bench warrant is often referred to as a "body attachment" because it accompanies an individual until they satisfy the warrant's purpose or pass away. Typically, a judge or magistrate issues this document when a person fails to comply with a court order or process (e.g., pay a citation or traffic ticket). The warrant permits law enforcement to arrest a person and bring them to court.
Ordinarily, a person who has a bench warrant can lose their driving privileges, government benefits, and incur extra fines/costs. As such, people with these body attachments are advised to appear before the court voluntarily to avoid further issues. Often, if a person comes willingly before the court, the court may be lenient and release them with or without bail upon a promise to appear in court later.
Individuals can learn if they have a bench warrant in Arkansas using a sheriff's warrant search tool or trusted proprietary software to find active warrants. Even if a warrant has been released, it can be resolved with an attorney's help.
In Arkansas, What is Failure to Appear
A good percentage of bench warrants issued in Arkansas are Failures to Appear (FTAs). A failure to appear warrant is issued because a person missed a court hearing. This action is presumed to be a crime in Arkansas. Hence, a person can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor for missing court without a reasonable excuse.
Apart from being arrested for the failure to appear offense, the court may also impose a fine penalty of up to $330 on the defaulter, based on the gravity of the offense.
A person who missed court only has a short amount of time between the default and when the court issues the warrant. As such, it is best to seek legal help immediately.
How Long Do You Have to Stay in Jail for a Warrant for Missing Court in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, the length of a jail or prison sentence incurred due to a missed court date depends on the initial court case—the pending court hearing for which the failure to appear (FTA) was issued. Felony cases generally have a higher prison sentence than misdemeanor ones. These incarceration periods are outlined in Ark. Code. Ann. §5-54-120, and are as follows:
- If the defendant in a felony case misses court, it is a Class C felony. As such, the party can spend 3 to 10 years in state prison.
- If the defendant in a misdemeanor case misses court, the party can be charged with a Class A, B, C, or unclassified misdemeanor. Generally, the failure to appear offense will mirror the original charges. That is, if the defendant was initially charged with a Class C misdemeanor, the FTA will be a Class C misdemeanor as well, and so on. However, if the open court case is to resolve a violation charge, the failure to appear will be a Class C misdemeanor.
For a Class A misdemeanor FTA, the individual can spend up to a year in county jail. For a Class B misdemeanor FTA, the maximum jail sentence is 90 days. A Class C misdemeanor FTA will attract a jail sentence not exceeding 30 days, whereas an unclassified misdemeanor FTA will have the same incarceration sentence as the pending case.
- If the defendant in a probation revocation hearing fails to appear before the court, the penalty is a Class D felony, punishable by up to 6 years in a state penitentiary.
In Arkansas, What is Failure to Pay?
A Failure to Pay (or FTP) is a type of bench warrant that orders the police to detain an individual who owes a court-ordered fine or cost. People with outstanding court payments can also have their driver's license suspended and incur jail time in Arkansas if the court finds that the default was intentional.
What is a No-Knock Warrant in Arkansas?
One of the legal requirements of a search warrant in Arkansas is that the police must give verbal notice ("knock and announce") before entering private property. The police must also wait a reasonable amount of time, enough to be deemed a constructive refusal of entry by the inhabitants, before forceful intrusion. Otherwise, it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
However, there is an exception to this law: the No-Knock Warrant. This writ allows the police to legally enter someone's property without announcing themselves or their purpose. A judge or magistrate will only release this warrant under any of the following circumstances:
- When alerting the occupant may cause evidence to be destroyed.
- When the inhabitant is an escapee hiding out in their home.
- When knocking and announcing will allow the suspect to escape.
- When the occupant is already aware of the officer's purpose.
- When notifying the inhabitant will compromise the safety of an officer or someone else.
How to Perform a Federal Warrant Search
Most law enforcement agencies in the United States have online search tools that can be used to perform a federal warrant search. The following agencies have online options for performing a federal warrant search:
- The U.S. Marshals Service has a Most Wanted Fugitives list that can be used to retrieve federal warrant information.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also has a “Most Wanted” list that requesters can use to conduct a federal warrant search
- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provides access to warrant information via its “Most Wanted” page.
- The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has a “Most Want” list that requesters can use to get federal warrant information.
Does Arkansas DMV Check for Warrants?
The Arkansas DMV does not check for warrants. However, they will be notified of drivers with warrants or outstanding traffic citations. This can cause the DMV to suspend the licenses of such drivers.