What is a Warrant in Connecticut?
People residing in Connecticut are protected from arbitrary arrests, searches, or seizures by the police with warrants. A warrant is an order by a judge that permits law enforcement officers to carry out actions that would normally be illegal. Often, these actions relate to a criminal investigation or court process.
In the state, the police cannot just detain or search anyone unless the offense (that which would necessitate the issuance of a warrant) occurs in plain view, hearing, or sight of an officer of the law. Hence, there are various types of warrants that can be released in Connecticut. Some warrants require the police or other law enforcement body to apply to a judge for issuance. Some are issued upon a grand jury indictment. Still, others can be approved by a judge when someone disobeys a court order.
Generally, warrants cannot be issued without probable cause. This means that there must be sufficient facts and circumstances—not just hearsay or mere suspicion, establishing that an individual should be arrested or searched because of their connection to a criminal case. These writs help keep the law enforcement procedures effective and prevent civil rights violations.
How to Find Out if You Have a Warrant in Connecticut
Most individuals will not learn about a warrant until they have been arrested, searched, or been the recipient of a related judicial action in Connecticut. The law does not mandate the police to notify the subject of a warrant of its existence. Therefore, concerned parties may take a proactive step by conducting a Connecticut warrant search to root out outstanding warrants.
Individuals seeking pending warrants can generally:
- Search the Connecticut Judicial Branch's warrant search site.
- Call a local law enforcement agency.
- Check a bail bond agent's website for a warrant search tool.
- Check with the court.
With the courts' search tool, individuals can find outstanding warrants by entering a name, court location, town, or a combination of the three into search fields. However, this tool only provides information on Failure to Appear (FTA), Violation of Probation (VOP), and Order to Incarcerate (OTI) warrants. Persons seeking other warrant types are better off calling a local police department or sheriff's office for warrant information. Mind that this can easily lead to a person's arrest and incarceration. Therefore, the searcher can get a criminal defense attorney to inquire on their behalf.
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 Connecticut?
In life, ignoring a problem does not usually make it go away. Instead, it can further complicate an issue that should have been simple on its face or easily sorted out. This is the same for warrants issued in Connecticut. Unlike other court proceedings that may have statutes of limitations, most warrants stay active forever. These writs can only be recalled by a judge, upon a suspect's surrender, or by their arrest. As such, ignoring a warrant while being aware of it or fleeing to another town, state, or country to evade the warrant is not advisable (the law permits extradition of such people).
Furthermore, the warrant will automatically go on the subject's criminal records, making it difficult for them to access certain benefits or opportunities, or even enter the country. All in all, after learning of a warrant, it is best to quash it immediately. A criminal defense attorney can assist with this.
What is a Connecticut Search Warrant?
A Connecticut search warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to enter and search a place or location to find proof of criminal activity. This is one of the more common warrants issued in the state when the police have reason to believe ("probable cause") that:
- The property is stolen or embezzled.
- The property is used or has been used to perpetrate a crime.
- The property will reveal that a person committed an offense.
This warrant will carry the following details:
- The name of the place, thing, or person to be searched. If the name is unknown, a clear description will suffice. The warrant will also identify the property to be seized.
- The date and time of the warrant's issuance.
- The grounds for the warrant's issuance.
- A command to search the named property within a reasonable time.
- The name and signature of the judge.
What Can Make a Connecticut Search Warrant Invalid?
Search warrants released in Connecticut have an execution window of 10 days (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 54-33c) except tracking device search warrants. The police must execute the search warrant and return it to the court within this time, else it expires.
Additionally, a search warrant can become invalid if the process used to issue or execute the warrant is faulty. For instance:
- The seized property is not aptly described.
- The affidavit of the search warrant does not establish probable cause.
- The warrant is fatally defective because the underlying affidavit was not particular about the place to be searched, etc.
When a search warrant does not follow legal procedure, defendants can question its validity in a court proceeding known as a "suppression hearing." If the court affirms the defendant's motion, it will throw out any evidence obtained by the search warrant. However, per Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 54-33c, defendants cannot challenge a search warrant because it failed to state the time of issuance.
What is an Arrest Warrant in Connecticut?
Anyone who violates the Connecticut Penal Code or defies a court order can be arrested with or without a warrant. A warrant is only required when the individual did not break the law in an officer's presence, but the police suspect the party of committing a specific crime. As such, an individual can have more than one arrest warrant active in the state.
A Connecticut arrest warrant is issued by a judge and remains open until the apprehension of the named party. This writ cannot be issued if the officer cannot tell the judge why it is needed (also known as probable cause). An arrest warrant released in Connecticut will usually have the following information for it to be valid and enforceable:
- The defendant's name. If unknown, the warrant will contain a description of the subject, enough to identify them.
- The offense.
- A judge's signature.
- The name of the court
- A command for the defendant to be arrested and brought to court without delay.
- The warrant's issuing date.
Once an arrest warrant is issued in Connecticut, the battle for a person's freedom begins. The police will actively attempt to apprehend the named respondent. This does not imply that the police will expend considerable resources to locate and arrest an individual, but that the subject of the warrant can be arrested upon any police interaction. Also, the police may visit the subject's home or workplace to execute the warrant.
In Connecticut, the chances of being notified of an arrest warrant depend on the charge and the defendant's location. As such, an individual residing in the town where the warrant was issued can receive notification by mail or phone call from the police. However, the police may not always notify the defendant.
As it can be hard to know when an arrest warrant exists, individuals can use online warrant search tools provided by the courts or a privately-run records database to find outstanding warrants.
What is a Child Support Arrest Warrant in Connecticut?
When an obligor or payor parent (parent ordered to pay support) has unpaid child support, the court will try to ensure payment by withholding the obligor's income, seizing financial assets, or suspending their driver's, professional, or recreational licenses. The court may also find the party in contempt of court. For any of this to happen, the obligor must appear before the court.
When the obligor fails to appear in court, especially for a contempt hearing, the court can issue a capias mittimus to compel their attendance. This civil arrest warrant authorizes law enforcement to detain the delinquent obligor and bring them to court to hear the matter. Ordinarily, these warrants are noncriminal. The payor will not be convicted or have the default displayed on their criminal records. However, the court can still impose jail time and fines, in addition to the support payment.
Notwithstanding, a child support arrest warrant can also carry a criminal charge. Usually, the court will only issue this warrant type when the obligor owes a substantial amount in child support, and federal or state prosecutors get involved in the case. Here, the delinquent payor can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor for back child support. However, this occurs rarely in Connecticut, as it is only used in more severe cases.
What is a Connecticut Bench Warrant?
Individuals who disregard court orders in Connecticut can incur bench warrants. Once a presiding judge issues this writ, law enforcement officers can arrest the subject of the warrant and bring them to court to answer for the default.
Bench warrants are more tenacious than other warrants in that they do not expire until the subject shows up in court—whether willingly or not—or dies.
In Connecticut, What is Failure to Appear?
A Failure to Appear (FTA) in Connecticut is a bench warrant issued against persons who skip their court dates. It allows the police to arrest the defaulter for failing to attend a court hearing for a traffic offense, infraction, or criminal case. Individuals who become subjects of FTA warrants can incur separate criminal charges if the court finds that the act was willful.
From the arrest warrant statistics compiled by the Connecticut Judicial Branch, FTAs are more common in the state than other warrant types. As of March 31, 2021, there were 36,435 active FTA warrants in the state; 6,631 of that number were felonies.
However, not every failure to appear leads to the issuance of a warrant in Connecticut. At times, the court will send the defendant a "bail commissioner's letter" (BCL) to warn the party and inform them of the next scheduled court date. If the defendant still misses this date, the court may issue an FTA warrant for their arrest.
The CT Judicial Branch offers an FTA warrant search tool that members of the public can use to find outstanding FTA warrants.
How Long Do You Have to Stay in Jail for a Warrant For Missing Court in Connecticut?
Per Connecticut statutes, anyone who intentionally misses a scheduled court hearing can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor and imprisoned. The underlying court case determines the degree of this sentence.
If the primary charge is a misdemeanor, then the failure to appear (FTA) is in the second degree and a Class A misdemeanor (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 53a-173). However, if the pending charge is a felony, it is a failure to appear in the first degree (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 53a-172), a Class D felony according to the state's Penal Code.
An individual found guilty of a failure to appear in the first degree in Connecticut can be imprisoned for up to 5 years. Whereas, if convicted of a failure to appear in the second degree, the defendant can spend up to a year in jail.
In Connecticut, What is Failure to Pay?
When an individual fails to pay a court fine or fee in Connecticut, the court can issue a Failure to Pay (FTP) bench warrant. Consequently, the police can detain the person and take them to court if they do not go willingly.
This warrant type is not without legal consequences. According to Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 51-164r, upon a willful failure to pay, a defendant is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor if the underlying charge is an infraction, or Class A misdemeanor if the underlying charge is a violation under Section 51-164n (b)
If charged with a Class A misdemeanor, the defendant can spend up to a year or less in jail. The defendant may also have to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000.
If guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, the penalty may be a jail term not exceeding 3 months, a fine of up to $500, or both. This penalty will be added to the original/underlying charge.
What is a No-Knock Warrant in Connecticut?
Police officers executing a search warrant in Connecticut must announce themselves before entering a private residence. This is referred to as the "knock and announce" rule, and it comes from the Fourth Amendment. However, there are exceptions to this rule—circumstances that can allow the police to enter a home legally without first notifying the occupants. For example:
- The subject of the warrant is already aware of the officer's purpose
- The occupant will attempt to flee
- Prior notice will put an officer or other person in harm's way
In certain U.S. states, judges can issue "no-knock" warrants if any of these circumstances are proven. However, in February 2021, a bill was filed in the Connecticut House to ban these warrants and enable police reforms. The bill passed on June 10, 2021, and goes into effect on October 1, 2021.