Are Warrants Public Record in North Carolina?
According to the North Carolina Public Records Law, stated in the General Statutes § Chapter 132, warrants are considered public records, with certain exceptions. Section 132-1(a) states that public records refer to all documents and material made or received by an agency pursuant to the law concerning public business.
However, search and arrest warrants (featured in North Carolina criminal records) are usually not available to the public until they have been carried out by law enforcement agencies and returned to the clerk's office. Under section 132-1.4(k) of the Public Records Law, these warrants may only be withheld when sealed by a court order. Affidavits supporting these warrant issuance are also subject to court sealing for a good reason. Personal information of the charged individual, such as their social security number or home address, may be redacted before the warrant is made public.
Warrants issued in North Carolina usually feature the personal data of the wanted person, including their physical characteristics ( eye color, weight, height), full name (first name, middle, and last name), and city or county of residence. Residents may be made aware of fugitives and persons on the run through notices published on local law enforcement websites.
What is Considered a Warrant in North Carolina?
A warrant in North Carolina is a legal document issued by a judge or magistrate that authorizes the police and other law enforcement agents to conduct an activity that would be illegal if done without a warrant. North Carolina warrants permit law enforcement officials to arrest people, search persons and properties, or perform other legal actions.
The North Carolina Judicial Branch issues different kinds of warrants, including bench warrants, arrest warrants, and search warrants. However, per the Fourth Amendment, judges and magistrates can only issue these writs if there is probable cause (sufficient reasons for an arrest or search).
How to Find Out if You Have a Warrant in North Carolina?
North Carolina residents can find out if they have outstanding warrants by conducting a criminal background check. All that is needed is to contact the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) for a criminal background check. Individuals may request in writing to the Criminal Information and Identification Section of the SBI. This process is called "Right to Review". Steps required during this process include:
- Obtaining a set of one's fingerprints from a nearby law enforcement agency.
- Paying the required fee of $14 via certified check or money order.
- Completing the request form.
Alternatively, county clerk offices across North Carolina can help private citizens conduct warrant searches to find outstanding warrants. County sheriffs, like the Rowan County sheriff, can also provide information on outstanding warrants at the county level.
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 North Carolina?
Most warrants in North Carolina stay active until the subject appears in court to face the charges or passes away. Therefore, it is advisable for residents of North Carolina to occasionally run a warrant search to know their warrant status.
One type of warrant that expires is the search warrant, usually after 48 hours have passed from the issuance. Within the 48-hour time frame, the police must execute the warrant, or it stops being active and cannot be used against the subject anymore. However, the court can reissue this warrant if probable cause still exists.
Anyone with an outstanding warrant in North Carolina should hire a lawyer to handle their case and protect their rights. The lawyer can advise on how and when to surrender to prevent an unexpected arrest.
Turning oneself in for an outstanding warrant has its advantages compared to if the police make the arrest. Voluntarily surrendering helps reduce the charges and proves that the subject is not a flight risk.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Warrant in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, there is no fixed or set timeline for a warrant to be issued. The length of time depends on several factors, including how complex the case is, the judge’s availability and the type of warrant requested. Before a warrant can be obtained, the prosecuting agent must provide evidence that would establish probable cause for the warrant. The judge must then be present for review and approval of the warrant application. In many cases where all relevant requirements are met, the warrant would be issued in a matter of hours; otherwise, it could take days or even longer.
How Do Search Warrants Work in North Carolina?
A North Carolina search warrant is a court order that directs a law enforcement officer to search a named person, designated premises, or vehicle. The warrant allows the police to legally intrude on a person's property. The primary purpose of a search warrant is to find and seize specific items. Search warrants may be conducted by officers acting within their territorial jurisdiction.
North Carolina General Statutes Article 11, subsection 15A-243 highlights the authorized persons that may issue a search warrant in the state:
Other persons permitted to issue search warrants include:
- A judge of any of North Carolina District Court (NCGS Article 26, Subsection 7A-291)
- A superior court clerk
- An assistant and deputy clerk of a superior court in district court matters
- A magistrate
Applications for search warrants must be in writing upon oath or affirmation. The application must contain the name and title of the applicant, a statement that confirms that there is probable cause for the warrant, facts supporting the statement, and a request for the issuance of the warrant.
A North Carolina search warrant will contain the following information:
- The issuing official's name and signature.
- The issuing date and time.
- The officer that the warrant is addressed to.
- The premises, persons, or vehicles to be searched.
- Items to be seized.
After the issuance of the warrant, the search must be conducted within 48 hours. Otherwise, the search warrant becomes void.
Note that law-enforcement officers are obligated to read the warrant and give a copy to the individual to be searched or in charge of the premises or vehicle to be searched.
How Does a North Carolina Search Warrant Become Invalid?
North Carolina search warrants became invalid after 48 hours from the issuing date. In addition, a North Carolina search warrant that does not comply with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may be rendered invalid by a court. For instance, per the Fourth Amendment, all U.S. citizens are free from unreasonable searches and seizures from the government. As such, any warrant issued without probable cause can be challenged on its merits.
Arrest Warrant in North Carolina: Rules of Procedure
A North Carolina arrest warrant is a document signed by a judge or magistrate that permits law enforcement officials to arrest a person named in the warrant. Whether the subject is guilty or not, a North Carolina arrest warrant instructs the arresting officers to detain the subject and present them before the court without unnecessary delay.
According to the North Carolina Statutes, section 15A-304, certain conditions must be considered before determining if a person should be taken into custody. These circumstances include:
- If the subject had previously failed to appear after being summoned
- If the subject will refuse to appear when summoned
- If the subject may escape
- If the subject may inflict injury or harm on a person or property
- The severity of the offense
Persons who may issue arrest warrants in North Carolina include:
- A justice of the state's Supreme Court
- A judge of the state's Superior Court, Court of Appeals, or District Court
- A court clerk
- A North Carolina magistrate
The judicial officer must ensure that there is probable cause before issuing the warrant. A North Carolina arrest warrant will contain the following data:
- Name and other information that can identify the subject
- The alleged offense
- Time of arrest
- Name of issuing judge and date of issuance
North Carolina Child Support Arrest Warrants: What You Need to Know
A child support arrest warrant In North Carolina is used to compel non-custodial parents to pay child support. Usually, a hearing is held to allow the non-custodial parent to explain the default. If the court establishes that the parent is capable but refuses to pay, the person can be held in contempt. The punishment for contempt includes suspension of driver's licenses, fines, or jail.
North Carolina Bench Warrants: Issuing and Arrests
A judge issues a North Carolina bench warrant to arrest a person who has failed to comply with a court order or rule. Upon the issuance of a bench warrant, law enforcement agencies have the right to arrest the subject of the warrant and make them face their charges.
The common reasons for issuing a bench warrant include:
- Failure to pay a fine
- Absence from court on a scheduled date
- Failure to obey court orders, including community service and signing up for court-mandated classes
Failure to Appear in North Carolina: Rules and Consequences
Failure to appear in North Carolina is when an alleged offender misses a scheduled court date. North Carolina considers a failure to appear as a criminal offense, and the persons involved will face penalties in addition to the original offense.
Also, anyone guilty of a failure to appear in North Carolina may have their driver's license revoked by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Defendants who do not appear in court within 20 days of missing the initial scheduled date will be reported to the DMV by the court clerk. After that, the department will revoke the person's license until the case is settled. Whether the failure to appear was addressed before the license revocation or not, the defendant will have to pay a sum of $200. After the case is handled, the person will need to pay an additional $100 before the license can be restored.
Additionally, the presiding judge may dismiss the person's pretrial release order and issue an order for arrest.
How Long Do You Have to Stay in Jail for a Warrant for Missing Court in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, anyone who was formerly released on misdemeanor charges but failed to appear in court has committed a Class 2 misdemeanor. Such a person can incur 30 days to 6 months in jail.
On the other hand, anyone with an underlying felony charge who misses court commits a Class I felony, which may lead to a jail term between 3 to 8 months for a first-time offender.
In North Carolina, What is Failure to Pay?
Failure to pay in North Carolina is a kind of bench warrant that a person may encounter if they fail to pay a court-ordered fine within the stipulated time. Usually, the court always tags a time frame to the payment of a fine. If the person involved does not make payment within the period given, it is a failure to pay.
No-Knock Warrant in North Carolina: General Laws
A no-knock warrant allows law enforcement to break into premises or vehicles without informing the owners, occupants, or persons in charge of the property. North Carolina General Statute 15A-251 makes it legal for officers to break and enter into residences and vehicles when necessary to execute a warrant.
As stated by the law, two situations allow for forcible entry:
- If the officers had previously announced their presence and established that the occupants denied them entry, they are unreasonably delayed, or the premises or vehicle is not occupied.
- If the officer reasonably believes that prior notification may endanger someone
No-knock warrants are generally issued to:
- Avoid the destruction of evidence.
- Prevent the escape of a suspect.
- Protect the lives of officers or other individuals.
- Stop inhabitants from arming themselves against the police.
How to Conduct an Active Warrant Search in North Carolina
Contacting the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the warrant was issued is the most straightforward way to conduct an active warrant search. Inquirers can call, mail or visit the police department or sheriff’s office to gain information about a warrant search. They can also visit the agency’s website and conduct a search through the available online databases.
Inquirers must provide relevant information to identify the charged individual, such as their full name, date of birth, last known address etc. More information provided will result in more accurate and extensive results.
The results can vary depending on the agency and the jurisdiction. Typically the warrant search will reveal details which include:
- Personal and Identifying information
- Warrant Type
- Warrant ID
- Issuing Agency
- Date of Warrant Issue
- Charges and Offense Type
- Past Warrants
- Criminal Record
Most warrants in North Carolina stay active until the individual faces charges at court or passes away. In the case of search warrants, once a search warrant is issued, it remains active for 48 hours and must be executed. After 48 hours, it is subject to expiration, cannot be used on the subject, and can also be closed by a law order.
Free Warrant Search Options in North Carolina
A free option would be to contact the local law enforcement agencies and inquire about their warrant search procedure. Some agencies also have websites that allow users to conduct online searches and provide comprehensive results based on the information available.
Inquirers can visit the North Carolina court website, which offers an eCourts Portal for individuals to search for public records. Inquirers will be required to input information about the person they are searching for. This is a free service; however, information may be limited due to court restrictions.
Inquirers can use several online warrant search tools for free, including SearchQuarry and WarrantLookup. These tools usually use publicly available information to provide results; hence the results may not be up-to-date or comprehensive.
How to Perform a Federal Warrant Search
A federal warrant is issued by a United States federal magistrate judge or any judicial officer and authorizes federal law enforcement agents to search for evidence of criminal activity. Federal warrant searches can be conducted by contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) directly for information about any active federal wants. Note that the FBI may only provide information to authorized individuals, and it is important to seek legal help before proceeding.
Online, the Warrant Information System (WIN), which the U.S. Marshals Service manages, holds federal warrant records. The WIN is a database for all federal warrants and internal documents about warrant cases. The records in the WIN are not available to the public and cannot be searched. Inquirers, however, may use the Public Access to Court Electronics Records (PACER) database to search for records related to the charged individual. PACER releases information on federal criminal and civil case records, and a proper search would obtain an active warrant.
Does North Carolina DMV Check for Warrants?
The North Carolina DMV typically checks an individual's name and identifying details. This is done to determine if there are any legal issues, such as outstanding warrants, which could affect their license application or vehicle registration. If there is an active warrant, the DMV may suspend the individual’s license and notify the appropriate law enforcement agency.