The judicial entities that have authority to issue arrest warrants in Virginia are mentioned in the state penal code section 19-2-71. According to this law, active warrants can be issued by the magistrate of any circuit court, general district court, juvenile or domestic relations tribunal and by the clerk of courts who handle the administrative services of these judicial bodies.
The statute also clarifies that while multiple judicial officers hold the powers to issue arrest warrants, these legal processes can only be released on the basis of a complaint filed in court by a law enforcement agent. If the affiant is a civilian, a warrant for a felony can only be issued if prior authorization from the prosecuting attorney or the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the offense has been obtained by the complainant.
The same rule also applies when a warrant has to be procured by law enforcement agents against the offense of capital murder. However, not adhering to this law does not offer grounds for the quashing of a warrant, for overturning a sentence or for delaying the execution of the warrant.
Virginia Code 19.2.72 states that arrest warrants can be issued on a complaint made against a criminal offense if the judicial officer in charge of issuing the legal process finds that there is probable cause to suspect that a criminal act did occur and that it was commissioned by the person in whose name the warrant is being requested.
The magistrate may also issue summons in place of a warrant when there is reason to believe that an offense that is punishable by more than a fine has been committed and information on this has been brought before the court by a law enforcement agent. However, if the complaint is lodged by a civilian, a written declaration of the offense will have to be submitted before the bench.
In case of bench warrants, these orders are issued solely on the basis of the information held by the judiciary. These legal processes are used to capture offenders who have disobeyed a court order or have failed to show up for trial after being released on bail.
As compared to bench orders for arrest, search warrants are issued only when the police can show there is probable cause to assume that evidence may be held in a certain place or building. Search warrants are also needed when the sheriff's deputies need to enter a third party premises to arrest a person who has a felony warrant to his name.
Although the name of one or two law enforcement agents is mentioned in such orders as the official executioners of the warrant, in reality, Virginia arrest warrants and other processes can be served by any member of the sheriff's office. In fact, arrests under outstanding warrants can also be made by police officers from outside the issuing county.
The Virginia State Police maintains the central repository of crime history information and given the open sunshine laws of the state, this data is disseminated to the public as well, at least to the extent of conviction and arrest records of cases that have already been disposed by the judiciary.
However, if you are looking for information on outstanding warrants issued in cases that are still in the investigative or the trial stage, this cannot be accessed by civilian applicants interested in a warrant search. Yet, a most wanted list is furnished on the website of the State Police as well as several sheriffs' departments.
To find court records, it is possible to get in touch with the local clerk of court's office or connect with the state judiciary through their website at http://www.courts.state.va.us/caseinfo/. This is the simplest way to access the court dockets database maintained for various tribunals in the judicial network of VA.
For a warrant search through the State Police, you will need to fill the form given on http://www.vsp.state.va.us/downloads/SP167.pdf, get it notarized and send it to the state law enforcement agency at the Department of State Police, P. O. Box 85076, Richmond, VA 23261-5076. The department charges a $15 fee per search.
Another way to look for arrest records and information on VA outstanding warrants that have already been served is to get in touch with the Department of Corrections at http://www.vadoc.state.va.us/offenders/locator/index.cfmor write to them at the Virginia Department of Corrections, P.O. Box 26963, Richmond, VA 23261-6963.