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Pennsylvania Warrant Search

A Pennsylvania Warrant Search is a process of checking for any outstanding warrants issued by the state of Pennsylvania or its local jurisdictions. A warrant search aims to determine if an individual has an active warrant for their arrest.

A warrant is a legally binding document issued by a court or law enforcement agency that authorizes the police to take a specific action, such as arresting an individual, searching a location, or seizing property.

Typically, the court issues a warrant to compel compliance with a court order or as part of a criminal investigation.

Before a Pennsylvania judge can issue a warrant, the officer requesting the writ must demonstrate probable cause; otherwise, the warrant and its execution are unlawful.

When you perform a Pennsylvania Warrant Search, the information you will find can differ since state courts may issue various warrants, and each kind performs a distinct judicial function. But in most cases, you can find the following information:

  • A description of the individual named in the warrant
  • The type of warrant
  • The issuance date
  • The charging authority, like the law enforcement agency or the court
  • The reason for the warrant like failure to appear in court, failing to pay fines, suspected criminal activity

The federal Freedom of Information Act and the state Right To Know Law govern the right of the public to access information about warrants in Pennsylvania.

These laws make warrant information a public record, which means it is available to anyone who requests it. However, certain restrictions on access to warrant information may exist, such as limitations on releasing information about ongoing investigations or sensitive personal information.

How Long Does a Warrant Stay Active in Pennsylvania?

The length of time a warrant remains active in Pennsylvania varies depending on the type of warrant.

For example, an arrest warrant, issued when a person is suspected of committing a crime, can remain active until the police apprehend the suspect or the court drop the charges.

Likewise, a bench warrant stays valid until the defendant appears in court or the case is settled.

Conversely, a search warrant, issued when law enforcement needs to search a specific location for evidence related to a crime, typically remains active for only two days from the date of issuance as per 234  Pennsylvania (Pa.) Code Rule 205.

Though regular search warrants only last for two days, anticipatory search warrants, on the other hand, don't expire until a future event happens.

It is important to note that while these are general guidelines. Still, the severity of the crime, the case's circumstances, and the judge's discretion might affect the duration of a warrant's validity.

What Are the Most Common Warrants in Pennsylvania?

Several types of warrants are commonly issued in the state, each serving a unique purpose. But the most prevalent ones in Pennsylvania are as follows:

Pennsylvania Arrest Warrant

An arrest warrant in Pennsylvania is a court order that gives law enforcement the authority to arrest an individual suspected of having committed a crime.

In Pennsylvania, an arrest warrant may be issued in response to a criminal complaint, a written statement made under oath that accuses an individual of having committed a crime. If a judge finds probable cause to believe that the individual in question committed the crime, they will issue an arrest warrant.

It signifies that the judge must concur with the affiant's basis for the warrant, such that a person allegedly violated the state's penal law. Title 234, Chapter 5 of the Pa. Code governs the issue and execution of these warrants throughout the Commonwealth.

However, Pennsylvania police can arrest someone without an arrest warrant as per section 8902 of Title 42 of the state statutes. Generally, police officers can arrest without a warrant if they witness a crime being committed and have a reason to believe that an individual has committed a felony.

An arrest warrant in Pennsylvania is executable at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in any location, and they stay active until the subject surrenders.

Therefore, anybody who discovers such a writ during a warrant search should promptly quash it to avoid arrest. This warrant will appear on a person's criminal record, affecting employment, housing, and immigration.

Since arrests typically lead to court prosecutions, it's best to employ a criminal defense lawyer to help dismiss the warrant and contest the criminal charges.

What Constitutes a Valid Pennsylvania Arrest Warrant?

An arrest warrant in Pennsylvania is considered valid if it meets the following criteria:

  • A Pennsylvania magistrate or judge issues the arrest warrant.
  • The warrant has probable cause—a reasonable ground that the accused committed the offense.
  • The judge or magisterial district judge signs the warrant after holding a probable cause hearing.
  • The warrant adequately describes the accused and the crime.
  • Law enforcement announces their identity and intent before arresting and serving the warrant.

If any of these criteria are missing, the warrant may be invalid and the arrest illegal.

Pennsylvania Search Warrant

One of the most common warrant types in a Pennsylvania Warrant Search is the search warrant. This warrant permits authorities to enter a private dwelling or property and take evidence without consent.

However, under the U.S. Fourth Amendment and section 8, Article I of the State Constitution, the government can't search or take things from people in the Commonwealth without a justifiable reason.

To get this order, the seeking officer must show a magistrate or judge that inspecting the property would reveal a shred of crime evidence.

In a criminal prosecution, if a government officer searches and takes a person's property without this warrant, that evidence is inadmissible to court.

In addition to regular search warrants, courts in Pennsylvania can also order anticipatory search warrants for evidence that will come out in the future, as per 234 Pa. Code Rule 203 Paragraph (F).

The police officers must serve these warrants between 6 AM and 10 PM. Unless a court allows it, any performance outside these hours is illegal.

What Constitutes a Valid Pennsylvania Search Warrant?

Under Rule 205(A), Title 234 of Pa. Code, a search warrant  must have a judge's signature and must:

  • Include the time and date of issuance.
  • Give the judicial officer's title.
  • Determine what to seize.
  • Identify the search target.
  • Include the execution deadline.
  • Have the order to execute the warrant between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM.
  • Certify that probable cause supported the warrant in the written affidavit.
  • When applicable, declare on the warrant that the affidavit is sealed under Rule 211 for a good reason and identify its sealing period.

If a search warrant in Pennsylvania does not have any of these elements, the warrant-obtained evidence will be inadmissible in court, absolving the suspect in criminal proceedings.

Pennsylvania Bench Warrant

A magistrate or judge issues a Pennsylvania bench warrant when a defendant fails to appear in court, pay fines or costs, or violate a court order such as a probation violation.

Title 234, Chapter 1, Part E of Pa. Code governs bench warrant release and execution in the state. 

Under Rule 150, this warrant expires unless the hearing is conducted within 72 hours following an individual's detainment. If these hours pass on a non-business day, they expire the next day. However, if the warrant is against a minor witness, it has a 24-hour time restriction.

Like most other types of warrants in Pennsylvania, a bench warrant must primarily have the following to be valid:

  • Name of the individual sought
  • Nature of the charges
  • Issuing court and judge
  • Signature of the judge who issued it
  • Date of issuance
  • Authority to arrest

When you perform a Pennsylvania Warrant Search, you can expect other types of warrants besides the primary ones mentioned above. Other warrants in Pennsylvania include traffic, civil, child support, eviction, and fugitive.

How To Perform Warrant Search in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania's courts and local law enforcement agencies give several options for citizens to make it simple to perform Pennsylvania Warrant Search on their own.

Your first method is through the Pennsylvania Judiciary Web Portal. It allows anybody to have a free warrant search in the state without contacting or visiting a law enforcement agency. This database supports statewide warrant searches. However, you must create an account first to use this service.

Another option is to use the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH) of the Pennsylvania State Police. Individuals can get information on their own or another person's outstanding warrants from this repository for a non-refundable charge per request.

If you prefer a traditional way, you can visit a county sheriff's office or contact the law enforcement agency that issued the warrant to get general warrant information and examine the most wanted list for that area. This list will typically include the full name, crime, warrant number, last known address, and date of issuance.

Sometimes, warrant information may be viewable on a sheriff's website. For example, Montgomery County's sheriff's website has a page that shows active bench warrants.

If you believe that a specific county in Pennsylvania has issued a warrant, you can visit the local courthouse and request a search of the warrant database. Courthouses typically keep records of all warrants issued in the county and can provide information about the warrant and its status.

If you prefer to have a professional perform the warrant search for you, you can hire a private investigator. This professional can scan law enforcement databases and other sources to see whether a person has a warrant.


Counties in Pennsylvania