Minnesota Arrest Records and Warrant Search

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Minnesota Warrants and Arrests Search

An arrest warrant in Minnesota (and anywhere else across the United States) has one function: to take a named person into custody. It requires the existence of probable cause to arrest an individual. Warrants are commonly associated with criminal actions: crimes against people (murders, rapes, and assaults) and property crimes such as burglary. However, where did the concept of warrants come from?


The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. America was a brand new country when the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The country was just a few years out from the revolution, fought, in part, over British deprivation of colonials’ rights. Federalists pushed for ratification of the constitution. Others opposed ratification, fearing the constitution addressed only the privileged classes’ rights and interests and put too much power into one central government. They demanded and obtained a “Bill of Rights” to set forth the rights of the individual. Over 200 years later, the Bill of Rights continues its function as the protector of individual liberties.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the root of criminal procedure in arrests and arrests warrants, states:

The people’s right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. No Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Early in U.S. judicial history, courts interpreted the Fourth Amendment as protecting individuals against arbitrary arrests. The fourth amendment requires specificity in protecting an individual’s rights. There must be probable cause that is “supported by oath or affirmation,” or in other words, a sworn statement or other reliable testimony. In the case of criminal arrest warrants, the person to be seized must be “particularly” described.

“Probable cause,” as a concept, is an outgrowth of the English Legal System, with cases from hundreds of years ago dealing with the subject. It is mentioned in the Fourth Amendment. Typically, judges find there is “probable cause” and sign arrest warrants when “…there is a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed “.Probable Cause consists of “[T]he amounts and quality of information police must have before they can search or arrest without a warrant… [and] information is [deemed] reliable if it shows that it’s more likely than not that a crime has occurred and …that the suspect named in the arrest warrant has committed a crime. “There must be good, tangible, and specific information to back up a request for an arrest warrant. By requiring all of these things, the constitution and the courts maintain protections of individuals’ rights.


Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, “Unreasonable searches and seizures prohibited,” contains almost identical language as the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Minnesota’s Supreme Court appears to interpret the Minnesota Constitution more expansively than the federal Constitution in cases where the court has a “clear and strong conviction that there is a principled basis for greater protection of… individual civil and political rights under the Minnesota Constitution”.Specifically, the court interprets the MN Constitution to grant more protection than its federal counterpart in cases when “…a more expansive reading of the state constitution represents the better rule of law.”


Establishing probable cause means “… to believe that the charged offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it…” and the statements as to probable cause may be “…supplemented by supporting affidavits or by sworn witness testimony taken by the issuing judge. A statement as to probable cause must be made under oath, and then the judge (or other authorized individuals) determines the existence of probable cause.

Once facts establish probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and the defendant committed it, a warrant may issue. A Minnesota district court judge must issue and sign the warrant in most cases. However, they may also arise after the filing of an indictment under Criminal Procedure Rule 19. Warrants must:

  • Include the defendant’s name (when the name is unknown, there must be any name or identifying descriptions to describe the defendant with reasonable certainty)
  • Must describe the offense charged in the complaint
  • Warrants and complaints may be combined.
  • Bail amounts and conditions of release may be included.

Authorized officers execute Minnesota arrest warrants almost anywhere within the state. Misdemeanor warrants do not generally allow for arrests on Sundays are on any day between 10 PM and 8 AM unless the subject is found on a public highway or street. The law enforcement officer executing the warrant must certify the court’s execution in which the defendant appears.


An individual may suspect there is a warrant with their name on it. Law enforcement agencies may want to check for outstanding warrants for individuals they come across. Even employers desire to know about an individual’s warrants when hiring a new employee. A criminal background check will likely reveal any executed MN arrest records. The resources available to individuals differ significantly from law enforcement resources. With 87 counties in MN, it is essential to ascertain the issuing county. Most counties have an online warrant search tool, and going to a county sheriff’s website to find the list of outstanding warrants may prove simple. Individuals may also call the county sheriff’s office to obtain warrant information.

Many counties provide on-line lists of outstanding warrants but require users to agree to terms of use. For instance, the Ramsey County Sherriff’s Office website’s “Online Warrant Search” requires users to review the terms of a disclaimer, scroll to the bottom of the page and then click on “I Agree” before using. However, once that is done, searches are as simple as entering an individual’s first and last name.

Most counties instruct those with warrants out against them to turn themselves in. By timing it right, an individual with a Minnesota outstanding warrant who turns himself in might have less of a chance of spending a weekend in jail. He or she may also be able to post a bond so that they can stay out of jail until their court date. A standard recommendation for surrendering is Mondays through Thursdays before four in the morning.


An individual incarcerated under an arrest warrant remains in jail unless they are “bailed out.”Bail is the amount of money or other security given to the court to ensure a defendant’s appearance later in the legal process. It releases the defendant from incarceration and benefits the state, which then does not have to pay for the inmate’s care pending trial.

The concept of “bail” was around in ancient Roman times. The American Colonies were subject to English law, developed over centuries. With the drafting and ratification of the U.S. Constitution, however, bail was not a leading topic. The Eighth Amendment briefly touches upon it:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

However, scores of judicial opinions shaped the present administration of bail.

Whether jailed due to a conviction or unable to make bail, it is possible to search for individuals in jails and prisons. First, it is best to know where the person is incarcerated, either by the county or in a state facility. Most counties administer their jail. Some inmates are held there before their trial. Others have not made bail. Those sentenced to serve time in a county jail typically have a conviction for a “minor” crime, such as DUIs, theft, and other misdemeanors. A county jail sentence is relatively short (no more than 1 to 2 years). A state-run prison handles more convicted felons and repeats offenders. Those convicted of federal crimes spend time in federal prisons.

A search for a convicted felon in Minnesota should start with the State’s Department of Corrections, which maintains an Offender Locator. The locator retrieves public information on committed offenders and those released from prison and still under supervision. A search may be done by ID number, or else by name and birth date.

For searches on those charged with lesser offenses or awaiting trial, knowing the county where the person is incarcerated is helpful. In Hennepin County, the county sheriff maintains searchable public records on people either “received by, currently in or released from” the county jail at hennepin.mn.us. Washington County also provides “Daily Jail Booking Reports“. The Ramsey County, MN Sheriff’s Office uploads booking reports daily. Many other Minnesota counties offer similar services.


The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) maintains data on criminal convictions for public access for 15 years from the time of sentence completion. The BCA Public CCH on the Internet application is available at state.mn.us. The information open to the public includes:

  • Offense
  • Court of conviction
  • Date of conviction
  • Sentence information

However, the database provides no information on:

  • Arrest data
  • Juvenile data
  • Other states’ or federal criminal history data
  • Data on convictions for more than 15 years in the past
  • Other data deemed private or confidential.

While the public may view public criminal history information for no charge at one of the BCA office locations, private data about another individual requires the use of an Informed Consent form. The record subject may request a copy of their public and confidential criminal history information in person at the St. Paul BCA office or by mail.


Chapter 609A of the Minnesota Statutes covers expunging criminal records. An expungement is in many ways better than a pardon. A pardon officially forgives wrongdoing. Expungement allows the person to act as if the conviction never occurred. After an established length of time, an individual convicted of a crime or arrested connected with a crime may request to expunge their records. However, the victims of their crimes have the right to be informed of the expungement proceedings and may provide input in the process.

The individual seeking expungement of their records must file a petition containing:

  • identifying information (full name plus other legal names or aliases, date of birth, addresses)
  • why they seek expungement (job, licensing)
  • legal authority supporting their request (statutes, etc.)
  • details of their offense/arrest (including victims’ names)
  • current protection, restraining, or no-contact orders
  • criminal charges and conviction records in all states
  • rehabilitation
  • prior expungement requests

According to the statute, “…expungement of a criminal record is an extraordinary remedy to be granted only upon clear and convincing evidence that it would yield a benefit to the petitioner commensurate with the disadvantages to the public…” A court may order that criminal records be sealed, that the existence of the records are not be revealed, and the records should not be opened except under specific circumstances. There is no destruction or return of records.

Individuals make a poor decision and may be arrested. They may spend time in jail after their conviction. Others may want to check on their legal status, the existence and contents of arrest records, and criminal records. Individuals who have served a prison sentence often move to expunge their criminal records. Their motives to do so may be valid and admirable: the wish to gain a better job or obtain a professional license. However, with the proliferation of online people search tools, it is best to keep in mind that even when a record is expunged, it never truly goes away. Minnesota does not actually destroy arrest records and criminal background records.

On top of that, newspaper and other media accounts of a crime continue to exist. Add to that the many criminal background history websites claiming to provide up-to-date information on an arrest warrant in Minnesota. Expungement is effective legally, but a record may haunt people forever.

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