Tennessee Warrant Search – Outstanding & Active Warrants in TN


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Arrest warrants are defined in the Tennessee Code 40-6-201. Pursuant to this law, active warrants for arrests are judicial directives handed out in writing which state the substance of the complaint that is made against the accused and direct a proper officer of the law to act on the orders and apprehend the accused.

Active warrants from Tennessee are signed by the magistrate to indicate that a judicial officer has reviewed the evidence collected by the police and has found it adequate for establishing reasonable cause to conclude that the accused did have some involvement in the crime stated in the declaration. Yet, this should not be confused with a guilty verdict. The issue of a warrant merely means that there is enough evidence to presume culpability.

Tennessee Code 40-6-202 offers insight into the powers of magistrates in the state. It is clearly mentioned in this part of the criminal code that a sitting judge is authorized to issue active warrants which call for the apprehension of persons who have been charged with public offenses punishable in Tennessee.

Examination of the affiant for the purpose of issuing a warrant

It is stated in Tennessee Code 40-6-203 that when an affiant submits an accusatory instrument in court, the sitting magistrate has the responsibility of examining this complaint under oath. However, this examination need not take place in person. The information, whether it is a testimony or the examination reduced to writing, can be submitted via electronic and audio visual channels.

Before the examination takes place, the affiant is expected to file the affidavit of complaint in conformance with Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. The written examination is to present facts about the case in front of the court including all crime scene, circumstantial and forensic evidence gathered in the matter.

The issue of warrants for arrests

Probable cause which is a requisite for the issue of active warrants need not always be based on factual evidence; the proof presented can also be hearsay as long as the source of this evidence is considered credible by the court. This simply means that even evidence from an eye witness would be considered adequate for establishing reasonable cause which will be enough to meet the Fourth Amendment requirement for the release of a warrant.

When the affiant of such a declaration is a civilian or any other individual who is not a law enforcement agent, the magistrate will generally issue a criminal summons in lieu of a warrant.The difference in these two legal processes is that while an active warrant is an order for the detention of the accused, a summons merely commands the alleged offender to appear in court.

Although the issue of a summons is the norm as stated above, the magistrate may forego this formality and directly issue an arrest warrant in the following scenarios:

  • The complaint is made against a felony or the offense of stalking
  • When one of the multiple affiants is a police officer
  • After examination of the accusatory instrument the judge finds that there is probable cause to assume that not ordering the arrest of the accused will endanger the victim of domestic abuse or any other crime involving physical injury.
  • The affiant has approached the court with a police report concerning the criminal incident and the warrant is being requested for this occurrence
  • There is reasonable likelihood to believe that the accused will fail to obey the summons
  • There is one or more outstanding warrants in the name of the offender already in the criminal system

The time of issuance of TN arrest warrants and their return

Outstanding warrants which are issued in connection with a felony stay in the police database perpetually. However, arrest orders that have to do with misdemeanors will be automatically terminated and removed from the system if they are not served, quashed or returned within 5 years of their issue. This rule also holds for criminal summons and bench warrants.

In contrast, search warrants have a shorter period of validity. However, it is possible to seek search orders on an anticipatory basis, particularly in instances that involve the finding of narcotics, illegal weapons, etc.

Getting information on Tennessee arrest records and warrants

The provisions for a warrant search are not just available for law enforcement agents but also civilian in the state of TN. You can get in touch with the office of the clerk of court, the local sheriff's department or even the magistrate's court when seeking information on legal processes. It will help to understand here that when you connect with the judiciary, it is possible to access court records for the entire judicial system.

So, browsing through the court dockets database can get you information on criminal as well as civil matters. If your inquiry is strictly criminal in nature, it will also help to look at the most wanted list posted on the walls of your county's law enforcement office. For finding information pertaining to a particular person, you can get in touch with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI).

This agency maintains the central repository of crime history information in the state. To access their records, you will need to spend $29 per inquiry and send information about the subject through the form available at http://www.tbi.state.tn.us/background_checks/TORIS-master-memo.pdf.

Send the check and the document to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at Tennessee Criminal History Information, 901 R.S. Gass Blvd, Nashville, TN, 37216. More information on this can be found on the agency's website at http://www.tbi.state.tn.us/background_checks/backgrd_checks.shtml

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