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Are Warrants Public Record in Iowa?

Yes. Unless otherwise provided for by law, warrants are public records in Iowa per the Iowa Open Records Law. Therefore, anyone has the right to inspect and copy warrants from law enforcement agencies. A warrant search can be conducted online or in person at the appropriate record custodian office. Per Iowa Code § 804.29, all documents filed with the court when securing an arrest warrant, like citations and affidavits, are confidential. The warrant remains closed until the law enforcement officer has made the arrest and has made the officer’s return on the warrant or the defendant has made an initial appearance in court. This confidential warrant can be disseminated to persons with a court order that authorizes the release of the warrant. They are featured as part of an individual's Iowa criminal record and are also considered a critical part of the state’s judicial records. However, the following individuals can access confidential warrants without court orders:

  • A court-appointed attorney
  • An employee of the county attorney’s office.
  • A judicial officer or other court employees.
  • A peace officer or any other employee of a law enforcement agency
  • An employee of the Department of Corrections or an employee of a Judicial District Department of Correctional Services

What is Considered a Warrant in Iowa?

A warrant is an official document released by a magistrate or judge which authorizes law enforcement to perform an action against an individual that would otherwise violate their fundamental human rights or constitutional liberties.

Typically, a warrant must adequately show probable cause, describe the subject clearly, be backed by a police affidavit that is not false or reckless, and be issued by a judge or magistrate not affiliated with the case. Also, warrants specify the offense mandating the arrest and may indicate the bail a suspect may post to regain their freedom. Some may also limit the execution period to a particular time of the day. The different warrants include search, arrest, alias, tax, bench, capias, no-knock, failure to appear, failure to pay, and fugitive warrants.

Generally, warrants help the police carry out legal arrests, detainments, searches, and seizures. These writs are issued by the courts in Iowa, and this can only happen when there is compelling evidence based on a police officer's statement that a criminal offense has been or is being committed.

How to Find Out if You Have a Warrant in Iowa?

Persons in Iowa who want to find out if they have outstanding warrants have multiple methods of confirming this. They can begin their Iowa warrant search at the county level, as warrant information is available at county sheriff offices across the state. The street addresses of the 99 county sheriffs in the state, along with their phone and fax numbers, emails, and websites, are available on the sheriff's directory, published by the Iowa State Sheriffs & Deputies Association (ISSDA).

Some counties have an online warrant information system which eliminates the need to visit a county sheriff's office to find open warrants. An example of such is Scott County, Davenport, which has an online warrant search page. Black Hawk County, Waterloo also has a warrant search site that can be used to view warrants issued in the county.

Additionally, Iowa operates a statewide online system that can be used to find warrant information across counties.

Alternatively, a person can check for an Iowa warrant in criminal history records. The Criminal History Record Dissemination Unit of the Division of Criminal Investigation, Iowa Department of Public Safety, offers this service. Criminal history information can be requested using the Criminal History Request form and Criminal History Billing form (for payment). Requests cost $15 per name, and the completed forms can be submitted in person, by mail, or fax using these details:

Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
Support Operations Bureau 1st Floor
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
Phone: (515) 725-6066
Fax: (515) 725-6080

Individuals who find outstanding warrants are advised to report to a law enforcement office immediately rather than delay and get arrested.

Records of warrants issued or executed in various jurisdictions are also maintained and by third-party websites. While third-party sites make accessing these records substantially easier, the information available on the sites may vary since they are not government run sources. To obtain warrant records from a third-party site, the requesting party may be required to provide:

  • The personal information of the alleged suspect
  • Information regarding the issuing officer
  • The location where the warrant was issued.

How Long Does a Warrant Stay Active in Iowa?

In Iowa, different types of warrants have different validity periods. For instance, arrest warrants (issued because someone is the subject of a criminal investigation) do not expire. Also, bench warrants do not have an expiry date. On the other hand, search warrants (issued to find evidence at a location) expire after a specified time.

It is possible for persons who have warrants for their arrests to be unaware. Law enforcement may have failed in serving the warrant on them. However, this failure will not cancel the warrant. As such, a routine police stop or any interaction with law enforcement could lead to a person's arrest, years or even decades after. Other instances where a pending warrant may be discovered include employee checks, travel/immigration, and at the DMV during the renewal process.

Because these warrants are legally binding, it is of utmost importance for individuals to know where to search and obtain information on them. Warrant search services are provided by the state through various channels and also by online independent records databases. Individuals who are served with a warrant, or find it another way, can hire a criminal defense attorney to resolve the warrant. For instance, arrest warrants issued for unpaid speeding tickets may be cleared by paying the outstanding fines.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Warrant in Iowa?

The timeline for obtaining a warrant can vary depending on the particular situation, the type of warrant, and the jurisdiction. For example, arrest warrants are usually issued faster than search warrants. This is because search warrants require additional paperwork and signatures from multiple parties. Generally, a law enforcement officer can get a warrant between a few hours to several days. However, the warrant process can be expedited in some instances. For example, a law enforcement officer may be able to get a warrant very quickly if the suspect is believed to be in imminent danger or in possession of evidence that could be destroyed or tampered with.

How Do Search Warrants Work in Iowa?

A search warrant in Iowa is a written order signed by a magistrate according to Iowa Code § 808.3. This warrant directs a peace officer to search a property, person, or thing, or track, monitor, or remove a Global Position System (GPS) device.

In Iowa, every application (affidavit) for a search warrant must be in written form and supported by oath or attestation that establishes enough grounds ("probable cause") for the warrant. The affidavit must describe the place or person to be searched and the property to be retrieved, so that an average person can locate and identify the thing, person, or place with reasonable effort.

Search warrants can be issued by the magistrate in instances where:

  • The property was obtained in violation of the law.
  • Possession of the property is unlawful.
  • Property is or was used to commit a public offense.
  • Property is used to cover up or to prevent the discovery of a public offense.
  • The property is evidence in a criminal proceeding.
  • There is a need to place, track, or monitor a place, person, or thing with a Global Positioning System (GPS) device.

Iowa search warrants are executed by peace officers per Iowa Code § 808.5. The peace officer can execute the warrant at any time of the day, but no more than ten days from its issuing date, as it will be void. Where necessary, the executing officer may break into the property or vehicle to execute the warrant. In the process of executing the warrant, persons found on the property can be detained or searched to:

  • Prevent attack on the warrant's executor.
  • Prevent the concealment of property described in the warrant.
  • Seize any item that can be used to cause harm or attack the executor.

All information contained in an Iowa search warrant, including the affidavit, is confidential (sealed by the court) until the peace officer executes the warrant and returns it to the issuing magistrate.

How Does an Iowa Search Warrant Become Invalid?

Search warrants are legal instruments used in the prosecution of criminal cases. As such, there are rules given by the Fourth Amendment and state laws that govern their issuance and service.

For instance, per Iowa Code § 808.3, a search warrant cannot be issued without probable cause. Thus, any search warrant procured without just cause or with malice is invalid, and the person who requested it will be guilty of a serious misdemeanor.

Furthermore, Iowa Code § 808.10 also clearly states that even with probable cause, the executor of the warrant must not exceed their authority or exercise it with unnecessary force. Executing a warrant in that way will also render it invalid, and the executor will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Under Iowa Court Rule 2.12(2), a party can also fight the warrant in court if:

  • The seized property was not named in the warrant
  • The property was seized illegally without a valid warrant
  • The warrant was insufficient, and
  • The warrant was executed illegally.

If the court grants the motion, the warrant will be made invalid, and any evidence obtained with it will be suppressed.

How to Conduct an Active Warrant Search in Iowa

Warrant inquiries can be made at County Sheriff's Offices in Iowa. For example, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office allows requesters to conduct active warrant searches online or in person at their office. Online requests can be made via the Warrant Search tool. A search can be conducted by warrant issue date, status date, last name, and age. Record seekers can conduct an advanced search by name, warrant, charge, date, and status. The search result will reveal:

  • Fugitive information (full name, sex, race, date of birth, age, height, weight, and hair and eye color)
  • Warrant information (warrant number, date, and status, the agency that holds the warrant, warrant status date, and charges/bond)

In-person requests can be made at the Scott County Sheriff's Office during business hours (Monday to Friday: 8 am - 4:30 pm). The requesters must be able to provide the fugitive's name or date of birth to facilitate the search. The Office is located at:

Scott County Sheriff's Office
400 W. 4th Street
Davenport, IA 52801
Phone: (563) 326-8625
Fax: (563) 326-8689

Free Warrant Search Options in Iowa

Most County Sheriff's Offices provide online and in-person options for free warrant searches. For example, Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office has a Warrants List that provides free access to fugitive warrant information. To locate this list, click on Public Awarace from the top menu and select Warrants list from the dropdown menu. Requesters can click on the first letter of the fugitive’s last name to locate their warrant information or just scroll to the list. The warrant list contains the fugitive’s last name, first name, age, height, weight, gender, and race. Alternatively, requesters can visit the Sheriff's Office to view warrant information for free. A name and birth date might be required to complete the search. Note that copies of warrant records may attract some charges. The Office is located at:

Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office
1400 Big Lake Road
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
Phone: (712) 890-2200

Arrest Warrant in Iowa: Rules of Procedure

A warrant is a formal document issued by a magistrate for a person's arrest - typically after an investigative body files a criminal complaint.

In Iowa, the warrant must be directed to a peace officer and contain the defendant's name (if known), the issuing date, the issuing county/city and court, a description of the offense, and the magistrate's title and signature (Iowa Code § 804.2). If the warrant is issued for a bailable offense, the magistrate will endorse the bail condition and other conditions of release in the warrant (Iowa Code § 804.3).

A peace officer in Iowa can also arrest someone without a warrant when:

  • An offense was perpetrated or attempted in the officer's presence.
  • A public offense was committed.
  • The officer has grounds to believe that domestic abuse occurred.
  • The officer receives communication by telephone, radio, telegraph, or others from other state or federal law enforcement informing them of a warrant authorizing a person's arrest.
  • The officer believes that an indictable offense was committed in public.

The subject of an arrest warrant may not be notified of the writ until the police arrive to execute it. To prevent such surprises, individuals can perform Iowa warrant searches to see if any warrants are appended to their name.

Persons who find active arrest warrants are advised to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney on clearing the warrant.

Child Support Arrest Warrants in Iowa: What You Need to Know

In Iowa, child support is compulsory. Iowa child support laws place the legal responsibility of child care on both parents, whether they are married or not. As such, non-custodial parents are required to make child support payments to the custodial parents based on the income of both parents. Parents who default on these payments can be reported to the court or the Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU).

If the complaint is made to the court, an uncooperative parent may be found in contempt of court. This can cause the court to release a warrant for their arrest and lead to the suspension or revocation of the parent's driver's or professional license. The party may also incur fines, jail time, or community service.

Usually, the court or the CSRU will only push for contempt charges after exhausting other options to make the parent cooperate. The court can also push for criminal charges under Iowa Code Section § 233 and Code Section §726 if the parent willfully defaults on child support payments.

Iowa Bench Warrants: Issuing and Arrests

An Iowa bench warrant may be issued by a judge when someone violates a court order or instruction. Common reasons for a bench warrant include:

  • A defendant's failure to show up in court on a scheduled date.
  • Defendant's failure to obey a court order.
  • Defendant's inability to provide evidence of community service.
  • Defendant's failure to appear in court as a witness.
  • Defendant's failure to pay a court-commissioned fee or fine.

Law enforcement treats a bench warrant like an arrest warrant. As such, they will enforce it by arresting the party and bringing them before the judge. Bench warrants do not expire over time. Thus, it is advisable to run Iowa warrant searches periodically to confirm if pending bench warrants exist.

Failure to Appear in Iowa: Rules and Consequences

A judge can issue a citation detailing that a person should be present in court on a particular date and time. This citation is not an arrest warrant, but willfully failing to appear in court can lead to a simple misdemeanor charge (up to 30 days in detention, a fine ranging between $65 to $625, or both). As such, the court can issue a warrant for the individual's arrest. Nevertheless, persons who are out on bail are exempted from failure to appear warrants.

Following the defendant's arrest, the citation and the warrant will be returned to the court, and the offense will be heard and decided immediately (Iowa Code § 805.5).

How Long Do You Have to Stay in Jail for a Warrant for Missing Court in Iowa?

Missing a scheduled court appearance is an offense in Iowa. A person can be charged with a misdemeanor and have a warrant issued for their arrest. This misdemeanor charge is added to any penalty assessed for the missed court appearance. Individuals on bail at the time of missing the court appearance will forfeit their bail.

After being arrested for a failure to appear, the defendant will be held in detention (24 to 72 hours) until their bail hearing. At this hearing, the court may grant or keep them in custody until a future court date.

Failure to Pay in Iowa: How It Works

In Iowa, all fines and fees ordered to be paid by the court are regarded as court debt. These include restitution, fine penalties, criminal penalty surcharges, crime victim compensation fund, court costs, correctional fees, court-appointed attorney fees, and public defender expenses. The Iowa legislature has prescribed statutory penalties for persons who fail to pay these debts to the court clerk within 30 days after any debt is assessed.

When a debt is not fulfilled, the clerk's office will send a mail to the debtor to show cause and then a service of a notice to show cause before an arrest warrant will be issued for unpaid debt.

Failure to pay these debts will lead to:

  • Suspension of the defaulter's driver's license.
  • Suspension of the defaulter's motor vehicle registration.
  • Withholding of state-issued tax refunds.
  • Withholding of lottery winnings.

These punitive measures will remain in place until the defaulter opts for a payment plan to offset the debts.

Court debts can be paid to the clerk of the court in the county where the fines were assessed. A list of all clerk offices in Iowa is available on the Court Directory page of the Iowa Judicial Branch's website. These fines can also be paid online with major credit cards via the EPayment site.

No-Knock Warrant in Iowa: General Laws

An Iowa no-knock warrant is a search warrant issued by a judge that legally allows law enforcement to gain access into certain properties without notifying those within the property or explaining their purpose. This notification can include the police announcing their presence, ringing the doorbell, or knocking on the door. No-knock warrants are typically requested by law enforcement upon a conviction (probable cause) that adhering to the knock-and-announce rule would not be adequate. For example, when an announcement could:

  • Lead to the destruction of the evidence.
  • Compromise the safety of the police officers or peace officer
  • Put other individuals on the property at risk.
  • Allow suspects to flee the property.

It is worth noting that the police can be excused from the knock-and-announce rule in exigent (emergency) situations.

How to Perform a Federal Warrant Search

Eligible individuals can access federal warrants via the Warrant Information System (WIN) maintained by the U.S. Department of Justice. Note that access to WIN is not open to the public. However, members of the public can peruse the “Most Wanted” page on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) website to access the list of federal fugitives with federal warrants. Click on the images of fugitives to access specific information. Search results typically reveal the fugitive’s full name, alias, birth date and place, hair and eye color, height, weight, sex, race, and nationality. There are also audio, video, and downloadable posters about the fugitive on the FBI website.

Does Iowa DMV Check for Warrants?

The Iowa DMV does not necessarily check for warrants, but they will be notified of traffic-related warrants. This notification can result in license suspension. Therefore, it is advisable to clear any warrant before visiting the Iowa DMV to apply for a driver’s license or renew an expired license.

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