Finding Information without Breaking the Law
Warrants and Arrests
An arrest warrant in Arkansas, like any other state across the United States, is a crucial tool in law enforcement.Except under specific conditions where arresting officers have probable cause, they must have a warrant to take an individual into custody.Section 16-81-106 of the Arkansas Code (Authority to Arrest) allows a law enforcement officer to make an arrest without a warrant "…where a public offense is committed in his or her presence or where he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that the person arrested has committed a felony".Additionally, law enforcement officers may arrest a person for a misdemeanor without a warrant.This may be done "…if the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed battery upon another person, the officer finds evidence of bodily harm, and the officer reasonably believes that there is danger of violence unless the person alleged to have committed the battery is arrested without delay."
An important concept throughout criminal law proceedings is "Probable Cause".It is likely the most important element of an arrest (and also of a lawful search and seizure).Probable Cause is the presence of facts, circumstances and knowledge that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime was committed.When determining if probable cause was present in a situation, courts look to a test of the "totality of the circumstances".Probable Cause may arise from research, observations and investigations of law enforcement officials.A suspected criminal's history of committing similar crimes does not establish probable cause.Nor can a "tip", by itself, establish probable cause.It is a matter of the reliability of tips and evidence taken together with the knowledge and observations of law enforcement officers.Finally, probable cause cannot be proven using the results of the arrest.The existence of damning evidence found as a result of the arrest does not mean probable cause existed at the time of the arrest.
The requirements of a valid AR arrest warrant emanate from the language of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.Article 2 of the Arkansas Constitution also protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures:
The right of the people of this State to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue, except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or thing to be seized.
In Arkansas, a circuit judge, district judge, city judge or magistrate may issue a valid arrest warrant for the arrest of an individual charged with committing an offense when the issuing judge is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for the warrant.Judges determine the existence of reasonable grounds through from his or her personal knowledge or from information given him or her on oath.The warrant should name or describe the offense charged and the county in which it was committed. The warrant then may be executed by any law enforcement officer.
There are 75 counties in Arkansas.In 2010, there were almost 15,000 incidences of Violent Crimes and over 103,000 Property Crimes committed in the state of Arkansas.In addition to in-state Arkansas outstanding warrants, there are plenty of individuals with outstanding or current arrest warrants from other states and from federal law enforcement agencies.Considering the amount of crime in the state of Arkansas and beyond, warrants are an indispensible crime-fighting weapon used every day.
Searching for Outstanding Warrants in Arkansas
Some search for outstanding warrants on a family member or friend.Sometimes, searches for AR active warrants are done as a part of the hiring process or as required by professional licensing groups.In Arkansas, searches for outstanding state warrants are best achieved on a county-by-county basis.Some counties maintain online search pages for outstanding warrants.However, with 75 counties in the state of Arkansas, besides the name of the individual, it is very important to know which county issued the warrant.The public does not have the same level of access to arrest warrant records that law enforcement has.
Individuals also search warrants lists to find any Arkansas active warrants against themselves.An online search avails them of some anonymity while searching.Perhaps the easiest way, if not the most convenient for the subject of a warrant is apprehension by law enforcement.This is a common occurrence, where an individual detained for one thing turns out to have outstanding warrants.It even happens when authorities are merely trying to assist someone in danger.
Some counties offer online lists and/or search pages for outstanding warrants.For instance, Boone County maintains a list of warrants, whereas Washington County, AR has a search by name page.Other counties, including Pulaski County, the location of the state capital, have no online warrant search sites.The Pulaski County Sheriff does maintain an on-line list of wanted individuals.The ease of a search for warrant is heavily dependent upon location.
However, note well that searching for information does not grant a carte blanch.For instance, the Washington County Sheriff's office cautions online users, "Misuse of warrant information may subject you to civil or criminal liability."It sets forth that the information provided is intended only as a public service, that all warrants must be verified for accuracy, and that only law enforcement officers should make an arrest based upon an AR outstanding warrant.
In Arkansas, any law enforcement officer may serve or execute a warrant in any county in the state.When making an arrest, law enforcement officers must identify themselves, inform the individual that he or she is under arrest, and tell the arrested person the reason for the arrest as soon as is reasonably possible.They must also apprise the arrested individual of their constitutional right to remain silent and to have a lawyer represent them (The Miranda Warning).
Typically, arrestees in Arkansas are processed, or "booked", which usually includes fingerprinting, cataloguing and confiscation of personal items, and entry of the person's name and charges. Some arrestees are released and instructed to return to court at a later date, while others must remain in jail until the posting of bail.Bail is an amount of money that is given by an individual to allow their release and acts as a sort of guarantee that they will return for their scheduled court date.The amount of bail is set by a court according to the crime, the individual's record and many other factors.
There are ways to locate individuals not released on bail.The Arkansas Department of Correction offers an Inmate Population Information Search at http://adc.arkansas.gov/inmate_info/index.php. There are a number of search criteria available, including:
- DC Number (An identification number assigned by the department)
- Last/First Name
- Criminal History
The site also offers a means to place funds into the Inmate Banking Deposit Service.Users may also download the Inmate Database as a zip file.In addition, some AR counties maintain a criminal inmate database.Pulaski County's list is available at http://www.pcso.org/InmateRoster.shtml.
Depending upon the alleged crime, and where it was committed, individuals may be incarcerated at detention facilities located in the 75 counties in Arkansas.Many such locales have search engines for prison inmates. In fact, many that have no online Arkansas warrant search capabilities do have online prisoner searches available.For instance, Faulkner County maintains a Faulkner County Detention Center Inmate Roster on its web site, http://www.fcso.ar.gov/roster_choose.php.The roster includes both current inmates and a list of all persons released from the Faulkner County Detention Center within 48 hours.However, a disclaimer on the site warns that the provided information is only for the convenience of users, and there is no guarantee as to the accuracy and/or authenticity of the information. The disclaimer warns that users should not rely upon any information in taking any actions.
Checking and Correcting Criminal Background Records
In the state of Arkansas, an Online Criminal Background Check System is accessible at http://www.asp.arkansas.gov/.However, prior to making any search, keep in mind that performing an unauthorized search may result in a Class A misdemeanor offense.Individuals doing an on-line search of criminal histories must determine if they are eligible to perform such a search.Typically, they must be an employer or professional licensing board (PLB).Those who do not qualify may be able to obtain information by other means: a "Manual Record Check" may be sought in person or by mail, but the request costs $23.00 and must include a completed ASP-122 form along with a notarized release signature from the subject of the check.
Some individuals are surprised to find items on their background check.There is a procedure for them to follow to have the items removed.The individual has the right to challenge the record at no cost.The process involves taking fingerprints to compare against the fingerprints in the arrest record, and/or may include looking at photographs from the challenged arrest record. If the results show the arrest did not involve the subject, the erroneous entries are removed from the criminal history record.