Wisconsin Court Records
Wisconsin Warrant Search
A Wisconsin warrant search is the process of viewing or obtaining copies of a warrant issued or executed by a law enforcement agency in Wisconsin.
A warrant is a court order that authorizes a law enforcement officer to make an arrest or conduct a search. After a court issues a warrant, the clerk will enter the warrant into the Sheriff's Office records management system and state and national law enforcement systems. The most common warrants issued to law enforcement officers in Wisconsin are arrest, search, and bench warrants.
In Wisconsin, warrant searches may be essential for various reasons. For example:
- Law enforcement officers can conduct a warrant search to retrieve information crucial to an ongoing investigation;
- Judges can request a warrant search to provide evidence for an ongoing court case;
- Individuals conduct warrant lookups on their partners to verify their identities, uncover criminal history, and avoid romance scams.
Private citizens are advised not to try to apprehend a person with an active warrant. Instead, they must contact their local law enforcement agency (peace officers, city police, or county sheriff's department). The law enforcement agency must verify the warrant through the police department, sheriff's office system, and Crime Information Bureau (CIB) before apprehending the individual. Warrants are designed to protect their executors from civil or criminal liability.
Are Warrants Public Records in Wisconsin?
Yes, the Wisconsin Public Records Law authorizes public disclosure of warrants in the state. Therefore, anyone can view or request copies of warrants from any law enforcement agency in Wisconsin. However, certain warrant records or portions of it may be exempted from public disclosure. For example, when not executed, juvenile warrants and search warrants (Wis. Stat. § 968.21) are deemed confidential in Wisconsin. Warrants whose disclosure will affect investigations, endanger a person's life, or identify a victim, witness, or confidential informant are not public.
Types of Warrants in Wisconsin
There are different types of warrants in Wisconsin. These warrants are issued based on probable cause and depending on its purpose. Below are the common types of warrants issued in Wisconsin:
- Arrest warrant: This is a written order issued and signed by a judge authorizing a law enforcement officer to arrest the person named in the order.
- Search warrant: This is a written order that a judge issues directing a law enforcement officer to search a particular area for evidence as described in the search warrant.
- Bench warrant: This is a writ issued by a judge when a defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court date (Wis. Stat. § 968.09(1)). The bench warrant will carry the reason for its issuance.
- Capias: This type of warrant is issued by the court when a child, youth, or parent refuses to attend a court hearing. The Capias authorizes law enforcement to apprehend the child, juvenile, or parent and bring them back before the court.
What is a Search Warrant in Wisconsin?
Wis. Stat. § 968.12(1) defines a search warrant as an order that a judge signs authorizing a law enforcement officer to search a person, object, or place to seize property. A judge only issues a search warrant when probable cause is determined. A search warrant may be based upon a sworn complaint/affidavit or oral testimony communicated to the judge electronically by telephone, radio, or other means. Per Wis. Stat. § 968.13, a search warrant typically authorizes the seizure of the following:
- Contrabands like forged money and the materials for making them, controlled substances and the things used in injecting or smoking them, and indecent, obscene, or lewd written matter, sound recordings, pictures, or motion picture films;
- Any item used in committing a crime;
- Anything excluding documents that can be used as proof of a crime;
- Documents like recordings, tapes, papers, books, films, records, photographs, or computers which contain evidence of any crime.
All search warrants must be executed within a specified time frame. If the search is not executed within that time, it must be returned to the judge who issued it. Per Wis. Stat. § 968.17, executing law enforcement officers must return search warrants to the clerk within 48 hours of their execution or invalidity. A written inventory of any property taken from the searched premises must be submitted, too. After executing the search warrant, the affidavit/complaint to support the warrant issuance and the transcript of any oral testimonies must be filed with the clerk within five (5) days.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Search Warrant?
Typically, it takes about an hour or more to get a search warrant in Wisconsin. However, the time it takes to obtain a search warrant depends on how quickly a law enforcement officer can convince the judge of its necessity. The judge will only issue search warrants after establishing probable cause.
What is an Arrest Warrant in Wisconsin?
According to Wis. Stat. §968.04(1), a judge will issue an arrest warrant if there is sufficient proof of the subject's criminal involvement. This is usually done when a complaint or affidavit has been filed with the court. The warrant will be delivered to a law enforcement officer for service. Per Wis. Stat. § 968.04(4), an arrest warrant can be served anywhere in Wisconsin. This service involves a law enforcement officer arresting the accused and informing them of the nature of the crime with which they have been charged. After executing the arrest warrant, the law enforcement officer must endorse the arrest time and date, the officer's fee, and mileage upon the arrest warrant.
An arrest warrant is usually done in writing, and a copy of the complaint must be attached (Wis. Stat. § 968.04(3)(a)). An arrest warrant contains:
- The signature of the judge;
- The issuing date;
- The name of the judge who issued the warrant and the title of the judge's office;
- The name of the crime, the section charged, and the number of the section violated;
- A command that the person whose name is on the arrest warrant be brought before a judge;
- The name of the subject. If it is unknown, the description of the person will be stated.
Arrest Warrant Lookup in Wisconsin
Arrest warrants are public information in Wisconsin. Therefore, law enforcement agencies provide several official channels for members of the public to conduct arrest warrant searches. Individuals can retrieve arrest warrant records from the following law enforcement agencies:
- Circuit Courts: Inquirers may search the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access portal for active arrest warrants online. The search criteria required to use the portal are the subject's name, case number, or birth date.
- City Municipal Court: Arrest warrant lookups can be conducted online, by phone, or in person at City Municipal Courts. For example, the City of Milwaukee Municipal Court permits access to arrest warrants by phone at (414) 286-3800 and through its Search Case Information portal. The search criteria are the case number, citation number, name, or business.
- City Police Department: Record seekers can visit the nearest police departments to request arrest warrant records. Alternatively, they can view warrant information online on most police department websites. For example, the Janesville Police Department disseminates an Active Arrest Warrant List, which is updated monthly.
- County Sheriff's Department: Individuals can find arrest warrant information online, by phone, or in person at County Sheriff's Offices/Departments. For example, the Dane County Sheriff's Office (DCSO) provides up-to-date warrant information by phone at (608) 284-6110. All calls must be made during normal business hours. The DCSO also has an online warrant list that can be searched by name.
How to Find Out If You Have a Warrant in Wisconsin
Individuals can check if they have active warrants by searching their names on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access portal. When the results are generated, users will need to locate the particular case, click on the case number, and click "View case details." Check the Case Summary section to find active warrants for the case. Requesters experiencing trouble finding their cases should search only by first name and last name. Inquirers may also contact the courts via phone to determine whether they have any warrants.
Record seekers can also contact City Police Departments or County Sheriff's Offices by phone, email, or in-person to inquire if any warrant has been issued in their name. Most of these agencies provide warrant lists on their website. Individuals seeking to find out if they have a warrant can visit the site of the concerned City Police Departments or County Sheriff's Offices and go to the warrant page. Click on the PDF or link of the warrant list to review the names on the list. For example, the West Bend Police Department provides a Warrant List, and the Sauk County Sheriff's Office provides a Warrant List for public perusal. Individuals who find their names on a warrant list should contact the relevant law enforcement agency to handle the warrant.
Free Warrant Search in Wisconsin
Wisconsin law enforcement agencies provide free warrant searches online. Some agencies maintain a searchable portal, while others provide warrant lists where individuals can access warrant information without charge. For example, the Mid-Moraine Municipal Court has a Warrant List updated monthly that can be viewed for free.
How to Find Out If Someone Has A Warrant Online
Different government and third-party platforms can be used to determine if someone has a warrant online. Specifically, County Sheriff's Offices, City Police Departments, and City Municipal Courts have warrant lists on their websites that the general public can review at no cost.
Also, third-party vendors provide warrant information online to members of the public. A first name or last name and state are required to search. Sometimes, more information is necessary to narrow the search. A small fee may be required for comprehensive services. However, recent changes regarding the case may not be highlighted on records obtained through third-party sites since they aggregate information from various government sources. Thus, inquirers are advised to confirm the authenticity of the information obtained on these platforms.
How Long Do Warrants Last in Wisconsin?
The expiration date of warrants in Wisconsin differs with the type of warrant. For example, search warrants must be executed within five (5) days after the date of issuance (Wis. Stat. §968.15), while arrest warrants do not have an expiration date in Wisconsin. A bench warrant also remains active until the defendant is arraigned.