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Tennessee Court Records

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Tennessee Warrant Search

Tennessee warrants are legal paperwork permitting law enforcement officials to conduct searches, seize properties, or arrest individuals. The prerequisite to issue and execute warrants is founded on the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Warrants are typically issued when individuals fail to honor court appointments and orders or are suspected of breaking the law. However, each warrant must be sanctioned by a magistrate or other authorized official upon the finding of probable cause.

A Tennessee warrant search is a comprehensive review of various local and state resources to find legal processes issued by the courts. Warrant searches allow individuals to stay informed about their legal situations and proactively fulfill outstanding legal obligations.

Are Warrants Public Records in Tennessee?

Yes. Tennessee warrants are disclosed to the public under the state's Open Records Act. The Act allows the public to inspect and obtain documents or materials generated by state-funded bodies, such as the courts. 

The state's Supreme Court also affirms the public right to access judicial records in Tenn. S. Ct. R. 34. Court records include materials and other paperwork received, maintained, or created for official court proceedings, court administration, or other judicial reasons.

Under Tenn. S. Ct. R. 34 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504, certain records are exempt from public access, including:

  • Information Tied to Ongoing Investigations: According to Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504(a)(2)(A), criminal investigative records of Tennessee state agencies are confidential.
  • Information Sealed by Court Order: In some instances, a court may order a warrant to be sealed to protect the identity of confidential informants, safeguard national security interests, or preserve the right to a fair trial. Sealed warrants remain hidden until a judge lifts the seal, which may occur after an investigation or related legal proceeding is concluded.
  • Juvenile Information: Some criminal case records involving juvenile offenders are restricted from the public per Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-153. 

Types of Warrants in Tennessee

Warrants in Tennessee are typically categorized according to the actions they authorize. They include:

Search and Seizure Warrants: A search warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to search a location, property, or person and seize discovered evidence.

Arrest Warrants: Arrest warrants authorize law enforcement officers to apprehend and detain individuals suspected of violating laws and ordinances. Unlike search warrants, arrest warrants focus on locating a person suspected of criminal activity, not searching for and seizing evidence.

Bench Warrants: A bench warrant (issued from the court bench) authorizes law enforcement to arrest an individual for failing to appear on a court date, pay a court fine, or follow another court instruction. Bench warrants are among common warrants discovered after individuals conduct a Tennessee warrant search.

A bench warrant compels an individual to appear before the court or comply with legal obligations.

Administrative Inspection Warrants: Tennessee administrative inspection warrants include warrants issued to building officials per Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-120-117 and warrants issued to Department of Labor and Workforce Development officials per Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-4-101.

  • Warrants issued to Building Officials: These warrants are issued by courts and statutorily authorized entities to enforce compliance with building, safety, health, and environmental regulations. The warrant process is initiated when a business or homeowner blocks a building official from inspecting a premises, and the official applies for the warrant.

The official must submit an affidavit to convince the issuing official that probable cause exists to approve the warrant. The probable cause standard in this context differs from criminal search warrants. 

An administrative inspection warrant bears the agency and official requesting the warrant, the statutory or regulatory authority for the inspection, the officials authorized to conduct the inspection, and the property and items to be inspected. It also outlines the purpose of the inspection.

According to the law, officials have 10 days to execute such warrants after issuance. Failure to allow an inspection, obstructing an inspection, or aiding in the obstruction of an inspection is considered a Class C misdemeanor. 

  • Warrants issued to Officials of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development 

Employees and officials from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development denied entry to a workplace can obtain administrative inspection warrants to proceed with the inspection. These warrants are issued by judges or officials explicitly authorized by law to issue search warrants. 

Officials who were denied entry must submit affidavits to the issuing authority. Each affidavit must establish probable cause that a crime is occurring or has occurred within the premises.

The contents of an administrative inspection warrant include the name of the requesting agency and official, the purpose and legal basis for the inspection, the names of officials authorized to conduct the inspection, a detailed description of the premises to be inspected, and other specifics required by law.

Once issued, the warrant must be executed within 10 days. 

  • Distress Warrants: A distress warrant enables local tax collectors to pursue delinquent taxpayers and recover owed taxes per Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-215. The issuing entity must provide a 10-day notice to the subject of the warrant before enforcement. Upon issuance, law enforcement can seize and sell the delinquent taxpayer's personal or real property to cover the debt. Failure to execute the warrant may result in the sheriff's bond covering the owed amounts. Municipal tax collectors can enforce these warrants locally through police officers.

Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-6-413 also allows employees to use distress warrants to collect compensation or penalties resulting from civil actions from employers. In such cases, the warrants are issued by administrators recognized by law or their designees.

  • Forfeiture Warrants: Forfeiture warrants in Tennessee are issued by courts to seize assets involved in criminal activities (Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-33-204). These warrants are issued based on evidence that a property is connected to illegal activities. The warrant details the property subject to seizure and the legal grounds for its forfeiture. 
  • Warrants for Physical Custody: Warrants for physical custody are typically issued in child custody cases. These warrants authorize law enforcement to secure a child under specific legal conditions. A court issues the warrant to ensure a child's welfare. The warrant includes details about the child, the custodial conditions, and instructions for law enforcement on executing the warrant to transfer custody safely.

What is a Search Warrant in Tennessee?

Tennessee search warrants are governed by Tenn. R. Crim. P. 41 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-6-101 to 40-6-110. Also called search and seizure warrants, such warrants allow officers to search for and seize property connected to crimes. They are issued by magistrates to law enforcement officers upon the finding of probable cause—a reasonable basis to believe that the intended search subject is connected to a crime or harbors incriminating evidence.

Any law enforcement officer seeking a search warrant must swear an affidavit to convince the magistrate to issue the warrant. This affidavit must provide reasonable grounds that the property or location holds evidence of a crime. They may swear the oath in person or remotely via audio-visual communication methods.

Upon issuance, law enforcement must execute and return the search warrant within five days. The warrant becomes void if five days pass without execution.

Search warrants must specify the location, property, or person to be searched and the items to be seized. The legal paperwork also contains the date and time of the seizure, the name of the officer authorized to perform the search, and other relevant facts concerning the search.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Search Warrant?

The duration for obtaining search warrants depends on how long it takes the requester to convince the judge to sign off on the paperwork. It can take a few minutes to days, depending on how soon law enforcement can provide reasonable and compelling facts.

What is an Arrest Warrant in Tennessee?

A Tennessee arrest warrant orders a person's apprehension and detainment because there is probable cause to believe they may have committed a crime. An arrest warrant does not establish an individual's guilt or convict them of the crime. However, it often marks the beginning of the person's prosecution and trial. Arrest warrants are governed by Tenn. R. Crim. P. 4 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-6-201 - 40-6-217.

Magistrates or clerks in Tennessee can issue arrest warrants after reviewing complaints from the police or district attorney general. The warrant contains the name or description of the suspect, the county where it was issued, and the alleged offense.

Arrest Warrant Lookup in Tennessee

There are different avenues for finding arrest warrants in Tennessee before or after they have been executed.

Local Law Enforcement

Local law enforcement divisions, such as the police departments and county sheriff's offices, operate warrant divisions that maintain records for outstanding and active warrants. Most agencies provide online databases that display active warrants, including a suspect's name, alleged offense, the date the warrant was issued, and known address. For example, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office's Open Warrant Information system allows members of the public to search for outstanding warrants using a person's name or warrant number.

Individuals can also visit local law enforcement locations to verify if they have outstanding warrants.

County Clerks

Individuals can find information about certain warrants, such as distress warrants, through county clerk offices.

Court Clerks 

Court clerks are legally obligated to maintain records of warrants issued by courts. Thus, individuals can approach the clerk to obtain the documents.

People whose premises have been searched and properties seized upon execution of a search and seizure warrant can request copies of the executed warrant through the issuing court. The magistrate will approve the request and instruct a court official to send over the documents.

How to Find Out If You Have a Warrant in Tennessee

Knowing the type of warrant one seeks can point them to the right source of inquiry.

Criminal warrants

Criminal warrants include warrants issued for the arrest of an individual and search and seizure of people, locations, and properties. People seeking these types of warrants can visit a local law enforcement's website or precinct. They can also visit the court they believe must have issued the warrant.

Distress Warrants

Distress warrants are issued by local tax collectors (trustees in certain jurisdictions) and can be executed by local sheriffs. People who have had issues with their local tax collectors regarding taxes can check with the office to confirm if they have pending distress warrants.

Since distress warrants result in the sale of the properties of delinquent taxpayers, the public can look up tax sales and properties put up for sale by county trustees and chancery court clerk offices.

Warrants for Physical Custody

This type of warrant is typically maintained by the juvenile and family court that resolved the related matter. Individuals seeking such warrants can visit the appropriate court clerk. 

Administrative Inspection Warrant

Suppose an individual refused access to a building official or Department of Labor and Workforce Development employee. In that case, they may have an administrative inspection warrant issued to inspect their property. The warrant is issued by a court of record with jurisdiction over the agency seeking to inspect the premises. Individuals can contact the court clerk to find or confirm the existence of such warrants.

Free Warrant Search in Tennessee

Citizens can conduct free warrant searches in Tennessee on local law enforcement websites. Another option for a free search is to contact a court clerk's office for warrant information. Usually, a person's name and date of birth may be required for the search. 

However, one must pay a fee to reproduce or mail any warrant record.

How to Find Out If Someone Has A Warrant Online

Online resources provided by county sheriff's offices and police departments are often handy for confirming outstanding warrants. For example, entering a person's name or another accepted keyword into the Shelby County Sheriff's Office Warrant Information System reveals any outstanding warrant attached to the search input within that jurisdiction.

How Long Do Warrants Last in Tennessee?

The lifespan of a Tennessee warrant varies based on the warrant type. The following are the durations for different warrants in the state:

  • Arrest warrants: Warrants in misdemeanor cases expire after five years. However, other warrants tend to last indefinitely until canceled by a judge.
  • Bench warrants: Remain valid until the issuing judge or magistrate withdraws them.
  • Search warrants: Valid for five days after issuance.
  • Administrative inspection warrants: Valid for 10 days after issuance.
Tennessee Warrant Search
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