How are arrest warrants issued in Washington?
Arrest warrants are issued in the State of Washington under two circumstances - upon an indictment or in response to a complaint filed with the court. In both cases, the court may not issue a warrant for arrest until it finds probable cause for the warrant to be issued - the court must believe there is reasonable evidence to believe that the person committed the crime. The court may determine probable cause by examining, under oath, the complainant, by examining any witnesses to the alleged crime, or upon an affidavit filed with the court.
If sworn testimony is taken, the testimony must be recorded electronically or stenographically and preserved in the court records.
What happens if there is probable cause for an arrest warrant?
Once a judge determines probable cause exists to believe that a suspect has committed a crime, the judge will direct the clerk of court to issue an arrest warrant. In Washington, every arrest warrant must confirm to certain standards to be a valid. Each warrant must be in writing and must have “State of Washington” on the warrant. It must be signed by the clerk of court and have the date and county where it was issued on the face of the warrant. The name of the defendant, or if the defendant's name is unknown, any name or description by which the defendant can be identified with reasonable certainty must be on the warrant. It must specify the offense charged against the defendant and that the court has found that probable cause exists to believe the defendant has committed the offense charged. It will also command that the suspect be arrested and brought before the court.
Execution and service of an arrest warrant in Washington
Upon the issuance of an arrest warrant in Washington, the warrant is directed to all peace officers in the state and can only be executed by a peace officer. The officer executing a warrant brings the person before the court that issued it. If a warrant cannot be served, the officer must report to the court that issued it that the subject could not be located. At the request of the prosecuting attorney, an unexecuted warrant may be returned to the issuing court to be canceled.
What resources are available for searching arrest records and criminal records in Washington?
Individual counties may have resources for searching county records that pertain to that specific county; however, some resources are statewide. Most resources are available online so that individuals can search for arrest records and inmates without the necessity of going to a state or local office.
- Washington State Patrol – The Identification and Criminal History Section maintains criminal records from law enforcement agencies and courts throughout the state. You can request a criminal history record by following the instructions on their website.
- Washington State Department of Corrections – You can search for current inmates through the DOC’s website.
- Serious Violent Offenders Most Wanted List – This online resource gives you the name and picture of Washington’s most wanted for serious violent crimes.
- Most Wanted Arrests – This list contains individuals that are fugitives including the name, photo and charge for each person.
- Case Records Search – You can perform an online search for case records at the Washington Courts’ website.
Resources for crime victims in Washington
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services operates a Victim/Witness Notification Program for victims and witnesses in the State of Washington. Through this program, victims and witnesses of violent or sexual crimes receive updates about the release, transfer or escape of the criminal. Information about enrollment and qualification is on the website.
Washington crime statistics
According to the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs, the overall crime rate for Washington fell from 51.2 crimes per 1,000 people in 2002 to 38.3 crimes per 1,000 people in 2011. Between 1999 and 2008, 3,045,024 crimes were reported in the State of Washington which averages to approximately 35 crimes every hour. However, only 7% of the total crimes were violent in nature - - murder was the lowest type of crime committed in Washington during that time period.