Most people already feel like they're having a bad day when they get pulled over by law enforcement officers, but things could get a whole lot worse.
If a routine background check by the officer reveals an outstanding warrant, such people could be facing the prospect of a night in jail.
To avoid getting blindsided by such an occurrence, it's imperative that you check your records often for outstanding warrants, especially if you suspect that a warrant has been issued for you in West Virginia.
There are a few ways to find out if you have any outstanding warrants. We'll examine each of them in this guide.
What to Know About Warrants in West Virginia
Warrants are important documents in the West Virginia justice system. They are official permits that authorize members of law enforcement departments to search properties or arrest people who are suspected of having committed a crime.
This suspicion is known as probable cause, and judges need to be convinced of them by law enforcement officers before they sign warrants.
In West Virginia, warrants typically contain the name of the person for whom it's issued, if it's a bench warrant or arrest warrant.
If the name of the person for whom it's meant is not known, the warrant must include a physical description of them that will make identification and possible capture by law enforcement officers possible.
A judge may issue a warrant in West Virginia at their own discretion, but, in the majority of cases, they're issued in response to a filed complaint.
Arrest warrants are examples of the latter. For an arrest warrant to be issued in West Virginia, law enforcement officers must not only file a complaint but present compelling evidence of probable cause.
If the judge or justice is convinced of the merit of the claim, they will approve the issuing of the warrant.
An arrest warrant typically contains the offender's name, details of their offense, the name of the state, county, office, and name of the judge who issued the warrant, and the county where the warrant was issued.
Bench warrants, on the other hand, do not require the establishment of probable cause, or indeed, the presence of law enforcement officers.
This type of warrant is issued when a person fails to obey court injunctions, fails to show up for a hearing, or refuses to pay child support fees. Judges can often issue bench warrants at their own discretion.
Search warrants are similar to arrest warrants in the sense that they're typically requested by law enforcement officers and are also based on probable cause.
Once approved, the declaration of probable cause is attached to the warrant and issued to the police.
One detail that you can typically expect to find in a search warrant includes the specific property or space to be searched. Since search warrants in West Virginia can expire, they also contain the date they'll remain valid till.
How to Search for Warrants in West Virginia
Crime history data (including warrants) are accessible to members of the public in West Virginia, and there are several options for accessing your warrant and that of third parties in the state.
Finding Warrants Online
Counties such as Monongalia County, Writ County, Cabell County, and Hampshire County have websites that provide information on outstanding warrants.
If your warrant was issued in any of these counties, checking their website is an easy way to confirm the status of your warrant once and for all.
As an alternative, you may search for warrants on third-party websites. These platforms have access to records of warrants issued in quite a number of jurisdictions throughout the state.
Third-party websites typically charge a small fee for this service, although you may be able to find some that will let you access their database for free.
Finding Warrants in Person
You may also find warrants in West Virginia by contacting the court that issued the warrant in person.
Court clerks keep detailed criminal records, and finding out about a warrant for yourself or a third party can be just as easy as directing your query to them.
Another effective way to find warrants in West Virginia is by contacting the West Virginia State Police.
As a matter of fact, contacting the WVSP may be your best and most reliable source for warrant information in the state. The WVSP publishes a list of the most wanted people in the state on its website.
To find out for certain if you have a warrant, you may also conduct a background check on yourself via the WVSP.
To request a personal background check by the West Virginia State Police, fill out the form provided by the department and attach the service fee of $20. Next, mail your request to:
West Virginia State Police,
Criminal Investigation Reports,
725 Jefferson Road,
South Charleston, WV 25309-1698