In Arizona, a warrant is a court order instructing law enforcement to take certain action. There are 3 types of warrants:
- arrest warrants, which tell police to take someone into custody,
- search warrants, which authorize police to look for evidence in a certain location, and
- bench warrants, which tell police to arrest someone for defying the court.
1. How do I find out if there is a warrant for me in Arizona?
People in Arizona who are concerned that there might be a bench or an arrest warrant can look online or call the court. These warrants do not expire, so ignoring them will not make them go away.
Arizona’s judicial branch has an online portal that provides public access to court information. This portal can be used to look for an outstanding arrest or bench warrant. Searches can use their first and last name, as well as their date of birth, to look for warrants in their name. If there is a match, they can click on the case number to see details about the warrant, including:
- when it was issued,
- the court that issued it,
- activity in the case, and
- what the warrant is for.
This online portal hosts case information for court cases from 177 of the 184 courts in the state of Arizona. Courts that do not put warrant information on this site include the following state courts:
- Arizona Supreme Court,
- Court of Appeals – Division 1, and
- Court of Appeals – Division 2.
The following courts in Maricopa County also do not use the online portal for warrant information, or only use it for limited situations:
- Chandler Municipal Court (for non-delinquent cases),
- Justice of the Peace Courts (for non-delinquent cases),
- Maricopa Superior Court (for non-criminal cases),
- Gilbert Municipal Court,
- Mesa Municipal Court,
- Paradise Valley Municipal Court, and
- Tempe Municipal Court.
2 courts in Pima County do not use the portal, either:
- Pima County Superior Court, and
- Pima Consolidated Justice Court (for non-delinquent cases).
These other courts may have their own online database for public records and warrants.
Warrants can also be discovered by:
- calling the phone number for the Criminal Court Administration Information Desk at (602) 506-8575,
- calling the Arizona Department of Public Safety at (602) 223-2233,
- calling or visiting the local law enforcement department or sheriff’s office, or
- talking to a criminal defense lawyer.
However, going to local law enforcement to find out if there is a warrant for your arrest is risky. If there is an outstanding warrant, they will likely act on it and arrest you. By hiring a criminal defense attorney for legal representation, you can have your lawyer look for an outstanding warrant on your behalf.
These methods will only uncover Arizona bench warrants or arrest warrants, though. Search warrants are sealed to prevent suspects from finding them and potentially hiding or destroying evidence. Additionally, most juvenile or mental health cases will not be shown on the portal. Some orders of protection may also be sealed, as well.
2. Should I turn myself in?
One way to resolve a bench or arrest warrant is to turn yourself in to the police. This is known as a self-surrender. The police will then arrest you and initiate the charges or hold you for the court appearance that was missed.
Many judges view defendants who have turned themselves in more favorably than those who are arrested under the warrant in the field, often at a traffic stop. Defendants who self-surrender are often given better bail terms for pre-trial release.
Discussing the option with a criminal defense lawyer before doing it is essential. There may be a way to challenge and quash the warrant without needing to be arrested.
3. Can an arrest or bench warrant be quashed?
Arrest warrants or bench warrants can be quashed, or overturned in court.
Bench warrants are usually issued when a defendant or suspect fails to appear at a required court date. If the failure to appear was for an innocent reason, the suspect’s defense attorney can file a Motion to Quash the warrant. A hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the defense lawyer will explain what happened. If the judge is satisfied that the failure to appear was justified or excusable, he or she will withdraw the warrant.
Arrest warrants call for a criminal suspect’s apprehension for a crime, not a failure to appear in court. Quashing these warrants requires showing that the arrest warrant is somehow invalid. Arrest warrants can be invalid if, for example, they:
- do not adequately name the defendant,
- were not signed by a judge or magistrate,
- fail to state the charged offense, or
- are not supported by probable cause.1
Quashing a warrant requires a defense attorney from a local law firm to go to court on the defendant’s behalf. Defendants who try to quash a warrant on their own will likely be arrested because of the warrant.
4. How can I fight a search warrant?
Search warrants are rarely quashed because the suspect will generally not be aware of the existence of a search warrant until it is being executed.
If law enforcement find incriminating evidence during a search, though, defendants can contest a search warrant by filing a Motion to Suppress the evidence that was found. Under Arizona criminal law, the defendant can argue that the:
- search warrant was invalid,
- police overreached and violated the scope of the warrant, or
- police infringed on their Fourth Amendment rights.