Florida Court Records
Florida Warrant Search
A Florida warrant search, also called a Florida warrant check, is an inquiry for warrants issued within the Sunshine State. The search may be performed by members of the public curious about whether they have an active or outstanding warrant or by parties, including law enforcement officers, who want to determine a person's warrant status.
Warrant searches in Florida can reveal if someone is wanted for a crime within state boundaries, allowing private citizens to protect themselves from harm and peace officers to bring suspects to justice. Because warrants are also issued for civil (non-criminal) matters like failing to pay a court fine or appear for a court hearing, the information may be useful in business or financial dealings, especially as it pertains to transacting with or hiring someone who may present a risk.
Warrant information can typically be obtained from local and state departments in Florida, like the Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and county sheriff's offices. Many third-party websites also provide Florida warrant search services online.
Are Warrants Public Records in Florida
Yes. Warrants in Florida are considered public records under the Sunshine Law (Chapter 119, Florida Statutes). According to the law, anyone (subjects of warrants, peace officers, residents) can obtain warrant information from government databases or repositories.
Nonetheless, exemptions ordinarily apply to records regulated by Florida's Sunshine Law and other applicable statutes or regulations to balance the public's right to know with privacy provisions. As such, information deemed confidential or sensitive in Florida is not available upon a Florida warrant search, and restrictions affect the public's access to certain warrant records.
For example, per Rule 2.420: Public Access to Judicial Branch Records, copies of search and arrest warrants and supporting affidavits maintained by clerks, judges, and other court personnel are confidential until such warrants are executed or law enforcement authorities determine that execution is unattainable.
Types of Warrants in Florida
Some types of warrants issued in Florida include:
Arrest Warrant: A written order that a judge issues because of an alleged misdemeanor or felony crime. This warrant directs peace officers to arrest an individual accused of committing a criminal offense.
Bench Warrant: A Florida court may release a bench warrant because a person failed to appear for a hearing, pay a court-ordered fine, violated their probation, or flouted another court order. The warrant instructs law enforcement to apprehend the subject and bring them before a judge.
Search Warrant: Also called a "Search and Seizure Warrant," it is a written order from a judge that directs police officers to search a specific location, vehicle, or person for criminal evidence and bring said evidence to court.
Agriculture Warrant: This is a type of search warrant issued to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It allows the department's employees to exercise any authority granted by Florida Statute 581 or 585 regarding plant or animal pests, including inspecting and seizing or destroying property. Unlike criminal search warrants, an agriculture warrant is issued primarily for regulatory purposes.
Extradition Warrant: Another name for an extradition warrant in Florida is a "Governor's warrant of arrest." This type of warrant is issued and signed by the Governor and carries the state seal. It authorizes a peace officer or other designated person to arrest an accused wherever they may be found in the state and deliver them to the demanding state. Florida's extradition statute is codified at FS 941.
What is a Search Warrant in Florida?
Florida Statute 933 is the governing body of law for the issuance and execution of search warrants in Florida. While this law does not explicitly define the phrase "search warrant," it specifies, in Fla. Stat. §933.01, that the warrant must be issued by a judge having jurisdiction where the vehicle, place, or thing to be searched may be found.
Before a criminal search warrant can be issued in Florida, the lead investigative officer or detective (the "affiant") must submit a sworn application (an "affidavit") setting forth the location to be searched, the items/objects to be seized, and reasonable grounds ("probable cause") for the warrant's issuance. Such grounds, as specified in Fla. Stat. §933.02, may be that a property has been used as means to commit a crime, been stolen or embezzled, or been used in violation of laws relating to obscene prints and literature, and so on.
Upon reviewing the application and other supporting proof (including witness testimonies) and finding probable cause exists, a Florida judge may issue the search warrant. According to Fla. Stat. §933.07 (4), a search warrant is deemed issued by a judge once the judge affixes their signature or electronic signature to the document. The warrant directs any sheriff, sheriff's deputy, police officer, or other authorized party to search the property described therein or a named individual for the specified property. The officer must then bring said property and any person arrested in the process before the judge or another court having jurisdiction over the offense. Whatever the case, the warrant protects the subject from civil or criminal liability.
In this manner, each search warrant released in Florida satisfies the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, which safeguards the people from unreasonable searches and seizures by requiring warrants to be issued only upon probable cause, certified by oath or affirmation.
A Florida search warrant must be executed (by only peace officers) and returned to the court within 10 days of its issue. Otherwise, it is no longer valid. Execution is typically within daylight hours unless nighttime execution is expressly authorized in the warrant. Typically, officers will utilize the "knock and announce" method to execute the warrant; however, they can break down any door or window if admittance or access is refused after giving due notice. When executing the warrant, the officer is required to furnish the subject with a copy of the warrant and can also provide a copy of a written inventory of all property seized.
Note that separate protocols apply for agricultural warrants, which—although issued only upon probable cause by a judge—are issued on different grounds, have unique application requirements, and are valid for up to six months from issue. See Fla. Stat. §933.40 or visit the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website for more details.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Search Warrant?
There is no standard time frame within which Florida judges must issue a search warrant. Because the state's constitution and legislature mandate the finding of probable cause before such warrants are approved, judges must carefully review applications submitted by law enforcement authorities. Other factors, such as a judge's availability, a case's complexity, and an officer's ability to persuade the judge that the warrant is needed, also influence this timeline. As a result, the process takes as long as is needed, which may add up to some hours or a few days.
What is an Arrest Warrant in Florida?
An arrest warrant is a legal paper signed by a judge that permits the arrest of an individual suspected of a criminal offense. In Florida, police authorities, often a lead investigator or detective, request these warrants by the submission of sworn affidavits to the court. Each application must bear the affiant's signature and state facts that support the warrant's issuance (i.e., probable cause that exists to make the arrest). However, a judge cannot sign off on the warrant unless satisfied that probable cause indeed exists. The authority to issue and request arrest warrants in Florida is established by Florida Statute 901.
Florida law and Rule 3.121 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure set out the state's arrest warrant requirements and contents, including that the issued warrant must:
- Be in writing and in the name of the State of Florida.
- State the nature of the offense.
- Direct that the accused person be arrested and taken to a judge.
- Name the person to be arrested, or if such name is unknown, bear any name or description by which the suspect can be identified. It may include a photograph if available. It may also include recent changes to the name if applicable.
- Specify the issue date and county.
- Be signed by a judge with their office title or electronically signed if submitted via reliable electronic means.
- Set the bail amount or other release conditions (if applicable) and the return date.
Arrest warrants issued in Florida may be executed any day, at any time (day or night). This means a person subject to such a warrant risks an arrest anywhere they are discovered. Such warrants are only resolved by a person's arrest or voluntary surrender or when the court recalls the warrant. As a result, it may be prudent to consult a criminal defense lawyer on one's options if such a warrant exists.
Arrest Warrant Lookup in Florida
The Department of Law Enforcement in Florida offers a free searchable database to find active warrants in the State of Florida. Members of the public can access this database through the FDLE's Crime Information Center to look up outstanding arrest warrants. The website can be searched with a person's name (last, first, or middle), nickname, date of birth, age, race, or sex.
Another way to look up arrest warrants issued in Florida is to contact the sheriff's office in the county where a crime supposedly occurred. Note that some offices do not accept telephone calls for warrant searches and require inquirers to come to the office to acquire the details they seek. However, inquirers must exercise caution when seeking these records in person, as active warrants in their name will typically translate to instant arrest.
Many sheriff's offices also maintain accessible databases to aid public warrant searches within their jurisdictions. For example, citizens can obtain information about warrants issued in Polk County by contacting the local sheriff's Warrants Unit at (863) 298-6499 or via email at Wanted@polksheriff.org during regular business hours. A person may also access the Polk County Sheriff's Office Warrant Search portal to find local warrants by last name, city, zip code, or gender.
A court clerk's office may also keep public information about warrants for interested individuals. One may call or visit the respective clerk's office (where a case was filed or heard) to request the information. Like state and local law enforcement departments, clerks of courts in Florida also provide case search features on their websites, which may uncover some warrant details—for example, a Failure to Appear (FTA) warrant, a common type of bench warrant.
How to Find Out If You Have a Warrant in Florida
An arrest warrant's subject can utilize any of the above methods to confirm a warrant's existence in Florida. The aforementioned government agencies provide such resources to members of the public to obtain warrant information, whether the requesters are the subjects of warrants or curious parties.
However, contacting a local sheriff's office or courthouse to request information about active or outstanding warrants in one's name may cause the police to search for the individual. Thus, inquirers are often advised to go through a criminal defense attorney to confirm a warrant and its underlying charge. If a warrant exists, they can discuss next steps with the lawyer.
Note: One cannot look up search warrants in their name in Florida, as these remain confidential until executed.
Free Warrant Search in Florida
Government agencies that maintain warrant records in Florida do not typically charge requesters for the information. As such, any member of the public may call or visit such offices to obtain warrant data, such as the subject's name, their alias(es) or nickname(s), the alleged offense/charge, warrant issue date, and the subject's identifying features, without paying a sum of money. Admittedly, warrant requests are typically record inspection requests and do not require the reproduction of a paper or electronic copy—often what leads to charges.
Moreover, many warrant records custodians provide free online search websites to users. These sites have varying search criteria but generally require a person's name to pull up a record match.
How to Find Out If Someone Has A Warrant Online
To find out if someone has a warrant online, a person may access the local sheriff's warrants search database where a crime allegedly occurred, or they may access the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Wanted Persons database to search all jurisdictions within Florida. Equally an option is a court clerk's case search portal in the county where the case is open.
However, the FDLE and other government repositories warn online users against regarding the information they obtain as current or complete, nor should any information be used as a basis for individual action. Sometimes, a warrant may not yet be listed on an online system, and some information may be outdated. Individuals are advised to contact their local law enforcement agency or the reporting agency listed in the online search results to verify warrants.
Additionally, the public may utilize online databases provided by third-party or independent companies to find Florida warrant information. Like government databases, third-party websites require criteria like a person's last and first name to return matches. However, a fee may be assessed to obtain a record.
How Long Do Warrants Last in Florida?
Warrants issued in Florida never expire, except for search warrants that have a 10-day limit for execution (Fla. Stat. §993.05). Essentially, these writs follow their subjects forever—even when they relocate to another state or country—and can only be resolved when served, when a judge recalls the warrant, or when the subject dies.