Washington Criminal Rule 2.2 states that a warrant can be issued by the clerk of court following an order given by the sitting magistrate after an indictment has been returned against the accused or when probable cause is ascertained through an accusatory instrument or witness testimony brought before the bench by a law enforcement agency.
The matter of probable clause is handled in subsection 2 of this code; herein, it is clearly explained that before ruling on requests made for the issue of arrest warrants, the court must require that a sworn affidavit be filed and that the complainant and any witnesses he may bring forth be examined under oath. A warrant for arrest can exclusively be issued, as mentioned above, when probable cause is confirmed
It is further elaborated that a warrant cannot be issued unless the court determines that the affiant has indeed tried to ascertain the current address of the defendant by searching for it through the driver’s license or any other identifiable database maintained by the state government, a district court information system or the database maintained by the state DOC
The only time this requirement is waived is if the defendant is being held in custody at the time of the pre-warrant hearing or if he has already appeared in court after the case has been filed. Although the address requisite is important in the issue of active warrants, if an arrest order is erroneously issued or is in violation of this requirement, this shall not impact the validity of the warrant
All warrants for arrests issued in the state of Washington must be in writing and they should bear the name of the state and the county in which they were issued along with the signature of the clerk of court who issued the order. The directive should also have a mention of the date on which the order was granted and a clear command directed to all peace officers to take the accused into custody.
The accusatory instrument filed for the pre-warrant hearing is usually attached to the warrant, so the charges can be clearly understood by the arresting officer and these can also be relayed to the detainee at the time of arrest. Apart from a description of the accused that will help in his identification, if the offense is bailable, the conditions for release and bail will also be set forth in the arrest order.
An arrest warrant is considered to be served when the accused is detained under its authority. In contrast, a summons which is often released in lieu of a warrant is executed by delivering the order to the home of the accused or to his last known address. Another decree for detention that is said to be executed when the person in question is arrested is a bench order.
This might raise some questions about the difference between bench warrants and regular arrest orders issued in criminal matters. Although bench warrants also command that the accused be detained, these directives have limited reach and can only be served within the issuing county. Also, their issue is left at the discretion of the judiciary and no affidavit is filed for their release.
Search warrants and subpoenas are included in the category of legal processes as well. While the former allows police officers to enter a privately owned property in search of evidence, the latter is an appearance order generally issued to bring in witnesses.
The central crime database in the state is maintained by Washington State Patrol (WSP). This repository contains information on arrest records, issue of legal orders including summons, warrants, search orders, etc, conviction and incarceration details and more. However, if a member of the public initiates a warrant search he is only granted access to records of cases that resulted in a conviction.
So, if you are looking for information on Washington outstanding warrants, you will have only two choices; you can either look for details through the most wanted list posted on the walls of the sheriff’s office or on the website of the law enforcement agency or look for details through a third party information vendor.
If you are interested in online background inquiries through the state police, you can use their WATCH program (Washington Access to Criminal History). Applicants are charged a service fee of $10 per inquiry and the results of the search are delivered almost instantly. You can also mail in your request to the WSP with a check of $17 and wait for 7 to 10 business days to receive the report. The contact details of WSP are given below:
For mailed in request, do not forget to send the search form available on https://fortress.wa.gov/wsp/watch/Home/Formsfilled with the required information. Arrest records can also be sought through the office of the county clerk that maintains court records. To find these you will need to gain access to their court dockets database which can be done for a similar fee.