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Massachusetts Warrant Records

What is a Warrant in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, a warrant is a court-issued document that gives law enforcement officials the ability to conduct activities like arresting individuals, searching their properties, or summoning people to court. Although warrants can be issued in various situations, there are generally 3 types of warrants issued in Massachusetts. They include arrest or straight warrants, search warrants, and bench or default warrants.

The following are some reasons why a judge may release a warrant:

  • Failure to show up for a court appearance or jury duty
  • Failure to pay penalties and costs imposed by the court
  • When there is probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime.
  • When individuals breach their probation terms or conditions
  • Violation of a court order
  • When criminal activities are taking place on a property, etc.

Every warrant issued in Massachusetts is recorded in the Warrant Management System database. Hence, an individual's criminal record may contain information about the warrant. Databases of law enforcement agencies in the country and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles may also have this information. This suggests that having an outstanding warrant could be a concern. Therefore, individuals are encouraged to carry out warrant searches regularly, and on discovering a warrant, hire an experienced defense attorney to help resolve it.

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

Typically, the subjects of bench warrants issued in Massachusetts are notified within 30 days of the issuing date. According to the law, they must also be informed of the charge necessitating the warrant's release and how they might clear the warrant.

Although other warrant subjects may not be notified, there are methods for obtaining warrant information in Massachusetts:

The Criminal Offender Record Information System (CORI) offers online warrant searches to interested parties. Although this site only provides limited criminal history information, it is a good place to start figuring out if there is an active warrant in one's name. However, individuals must pay a small sum to get a copy of their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) report.

There will be a CORI on an individual if they have been the subject of an arrest warrant or charged with a felony in Massachusetts, even if later declared innocent. A copy of one's CORI report can be requested by writing the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services or using the online service.

Interested parties can also perform warrant searches by visiting the local sheriff's office and inspecting listings of most-wanted individuals. Some offices have these lists posted on their walls, while others keep them on an online database. These databases may only have a small amount of information on warrants.

Furthermore, users can conduct name searches on a privately-run public records site to find outstanding warrants. Search results can include the warrant subject's information and details of the offense for which the warrant was issued. These websites rely on data that have already been released by state departments, such as the county sheriff's office, county court clerk's office, and local police. Licensed attorneys can also assist in searching for warrants and having them recalled. Of the above, the most reliable technique of conducting a warrant search is to contact a local police station. This is because their information will be the most current. However, understand that if the inquirer's name is on a warrant, the individual may be detained right away.

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 Massachusetts?

Most warrants in Massachusetts remain active until they are executed. The type and purpose of a warrant determine its expiry date. For instance, search warrants in the state must be executed within a certain amount of time or become invalid. In contrast, bench warrants and arrest warrants rarely expire.

Generally, a bench warrant is not issued for a serious offense. However, though the police may not actively look for the named individual, the warrant will stay outstanding until its purpose is fulfilled. Likewise, regardless of how long ago an arrest warrant was issued, it will remain active until the subject is arrested, even if the crime's statute of limitations (the state's ability to prosecute the perpetrator for a crime) runs out.

What is a Massachusetts Search Warrant?

A search warrant in Massachusetts authorizes a law enforcement officer to search specific locations, vehicles, or individuals with the intent of seizing specific objects. These searches are usually executed to confiscate:

  • Stolen or embezzled objects.
  • Contraband or illegally possessed items.
  • Items owned or used to perpetrate or hide the commission of a crime.
  • Items that serve as proof of an offense or reveal the identity of a perpetrator.

The Fourth Amendment and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights protect Massachusetts residents from unreasonable search and seizure practices. These rules make it illegal for law enforcement to search an individual, their home, or their property without a search warrant.

As a result, if the police believe that examining a property may reveal evidence for an ongoing investigation, they must first obtain approval from an impartial and neutral magistrate or judge before searching the property. According to state law, a law enforcement official must persuade the magistrate that criminal activities occur or that evidence can be discovered at a specific location. This is also known as "probable cause."

To secure a search warrant, the police must present facts and valid allegations collected via surveillance or investigation to the judicial officer using an affidavit. If the magistrate or judge believes the affidavit establishes probable cause to search the specified area, the warrant will be issued.

Regardless, it is also crucial to understand that, while a search warrant is usually required, there are times when it is not. These instances include:

  • When a law enforcement officer's life is in danger
  • When an officer is on the trail or in pursuit of a suspect
  • When there is a chance that evidence will be removed or destroyed
  • When a suspect agrees to a search
  • When a suspect has already been apprehended.

What Can Make a Massachusetts Search Warrant Invalid?

The best way to render a warrant invalid, and any evidence with it inadmissible, is to question the lawfulness of the search and seizure. This means challenging how the search warrant was obtained or if it was executed legally.

To challenge a warrant, the defense must show that the requesting police officer or district attorney presented the issuing judge with fabricated facts to believe that there was probable cause. The warrant may also become invalid if it is proven that the magistrate was not a neutral party. If the defense can prove that this was the case, the search warrant and all evidence obtained from its execution will be declared invalid.

Also, executing a vague search warrant is a constitutional violation. As a result, if a search warrant does not specify a list of items to be seized or property to be searched, the warrant may become null and void. Overall, the "exclusionary rule" in Massachusetts requires a judge to suppress any evidence obtained by an unlawful or invalid warrant.

What is an Arrest Warrant in Massachusetts?

Typically, law enforcement agencies in Massachusetts require an arrest warrant and probable cause to make an arrest. An arrest or straight warrant, like a search warrant, is a court order issued by a judge or magistrate authorizing state law enforcement agencies to arrest an individual for allegedly committing a crime. Pursuant to the Massachusetts General Laws 276-21, these orders can be issued by justices of the supreme, superior, or district courts, and even a grand jury. An arrest warrant is typically requested from the courts by a law enforcement agency in collaboration with the district attorney's office when probable cause exists that an individual committed a crime.

Judges must have sufficient reason to issue an arrest warrant. Usually, they issue these writs after reviewing a criminal complaint and allegations listed in an affidavit or petition filed by the police. This affidavit must justify the arrest; otherwise, the request will be denied. When the allegations are for a misdemeanor offense, a magistrate will most likely make this decision during a probable cause hearing. The warrant must specifically name the person to be arrested, as well as the crime or offense they are suspected of committing.

What is a Child Support Arrest Warrant in Massachusetts?

In general, a child support arrest warrant instructs a law enforcement officer to apprehend and bring a parent who owes this support to the court. It is a type of bench warrant usually issued for a non-criminal matter.

In Massachusetts, a judge will not immediately issue this warrant when a parent fails to pay support. Instead, if a custodial parent reports the owing parent to the state's Child Support Enforcement Division, the department may file a Complaint for Contempt in court, depending on the severity of the situation. The defendant will be served with a complaint and summons informing them of the charges leveled against them. Then, if the individual fails to appear at the court hearing, the judge will issue a civil arrest or bench warrant, also known as a capias warrant, to bring them before the court to address the allegations.

What is a Massachusetts Bench Warrant?

A bench warrant in Massachusetts, like all other warrants, is issued by a judicial authority, specifically one that presides over active court cases. This warrant type usually stems from the violation of a court order rather than because of a criminal offense. In practice, bench warrants can be issued for failing to appear in court as a witness after being served with a subpoena, failing to show up for a trial after being let out on bail, as well as for failing to pay child support.

A bench or default warrant is entered into the state's Warrant Management System upon issuance. While the basis for a bench warrant differs from that of an arrest warrant, the outcome is essentially the same—the police have the authority and obligation to arrest the named individual. As a result, even if the police do not actively seek to apprehend the individual right away, the subject of the warrant may be detained when:

  • The local police department decides to conduct a warrant sweep.
  • They are pulled over at a traffic stop.
  • They require a driver's license to be renewed.
  • Any other type of police investigation, whether civil or criminal.

Also, once the warrant information is entered into the Warrant Management System, the information may go on the individual's criminal record and to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. As a result, in addition to the possibility of being arrested, a person named on a bench warrant may also have their driver's license suspended. Hence, bench warrants should be resolved as soon as possible, preferably with the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney. If it is not resolved within a short period, the court might impose stiffer penalties on the subject.

In Massachusetts, What is Failure to Appear?

Failure to appear (FTA) is a type of bench warrant used to detain people who fail to show up for their court date. The penalty of failing to appear in court is determined by the reason for the missed court date, if the individual has a history of missing court dates, and if they have a criminal record. In fact, it can result in a charge of contempt of court or be considered a criminal offense in Massachusetts with severe consequences.

If the warrant was released for failing to appear in court on a criminal charge, the offender would have violated their conditional release; as such, the party will be considered a fugitive from justice. Failure to appear in a misdemeanor proceeding can lead to a year or less in county jail, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. If the individual was charged with a felony, they could face up to 2 and 1/2 years in jail, a fine of up to $50,000, or both.

FTA may also occur as a result of failing to report for jury duty. In this case, the Office of the Jury Commissioner will send a notice or postcard to the individual. It can be resolved by contacting the OJC as instructed in the notice, explaining the absence, and rescheduling. If an individual is unable to report for any reason, they must provide proof in order to be cleared and removed from the jury pool.

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

The time an individual spends in jail for missing court in Massachusetts depends on why the warrant was issued. The court usually decides jail penalties based on the following:

  • The individual's history of missing court dates.
  • Criminal history.
  • Employment and responsibilities outside court.

Depending on the circumstances, the court may decide to release the individual on certain conditions, such as bail.

In Massachusetts, What is Failure to Pay?

Failure to pay is a bench warrant issued by the court for failing to pay a fine, court costs, restitution, and other amounts ordered by the court or required by state law. When the court issues this warrant, it will state how much is owed, as well as the $50 assessment that the defaulter must pay. However, if there is a good cause or the assessment may cause financial difficulty for an individual or their family members, the assessment fee may be waived.

This warrant may be discharged upon payment of the fine and assessment fee. The fees must be paid to the trial court's administrative office in any form deemed acceptable, and the individual will be notified of the discharge within seven days.

What is a No-Knock Warrant in Massachusetts?

According to Massachusetts General Laws c.276 2D, no-knock warrants are search warrants that do not require police officers to announce their presence and purpose before forcibly entering a residence or property. Because this warrant type goes against the knock-and-announce rule, which states mandates the police to announce their presence and intentions before forcibly entering a property, no-knock warrants are only issued and carried out in exceptional circumstances.

The judge will only issue such warrants if the affidavit supporting the warrant request meets the following criteria:

  • Establishes probable cause that a law enforcement officer's life or the lives of others will be jeopardized if they announce their presence.
  • Includes a declaration or evidence that minor children or adults over the age of 65 are not present on the property unless there is a credible risk of imminent harm to them.