Background Check at the DMV: What About Warrants?

In order to get your driving license you’ll have to go through the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). They are a government agency aimed with the responsibility of administering driving licenses and vehicle registration.

If you need to go to the DMV to obtain a driver’s license, renew one, or pay for vehicle registration it might make you anxious if you have a warrant out for your arrest. The DMV will check your record for any driving-related offenses or convictions, which isn’t a background check.

However, they will be able to see if you have any active warrants. 

Do They Check For Warrants at the DMV?

When you’re at the DMV you’ll need to provide identification so that you can correctly be identified. Once you do this the person behind the computer will be able to see any outstanding warrants you currently have. 

Some DMVs will have a Department of Public Safety Officer (DPS) on-site, whose sole purpose is to catch people with outstanding warrants while they’re at the DMV. 

If your DMV doesn’t have one of these officers they might call the local law enforcement or just outright deny you any services until your warrants are taken care of. What will happen if you’re caught at the DMV with a warrant depends entirely on the DMV and how they want to proceed with handling it. 

There’s a chance you could be arrested on the scene, and detained until officers arrive. However, one thing that’s certain is you won’t be able to use any of the DMVs services while having an active warrant so it’s best you get it cleared as it won’t go away on its own. 

Will the DMV Check for Warrants When I Try to Get a State ID?

DMV Check for Warrants

Yes, in order for the DMV to issue a state ID they will need to run a check on you first, which means an outstanding warrant will appear on file. Whether or not they’ll give you the ID depends on what the warrant is for and what DMV you’re going to.

If it’s for something minor then they might be able to look past it and give you the ID however anything more severe they’ll refuse you give you the ID. In this case, it’s best to get the warrant sorted so you don’t have it hanging over you. 

You might have to attend a court date, pay a fine, or find an attorney in order to get it cleared.

Does the DMV check for bench warrants also?

You might think that because a judge issued a bench warrant that the DMV won’t check for it however this isn’t the case. The DMV will run a check and see that you also have a bench warrant in your name. 

This means the DMV can still deny you their services or detain you on the spot, as a bench warrant is like any other warrant and gives law enforcement the power to arrest you. If you have a bench warrant the best thing you can do is turn yourself into court and get it dealt with before the police have the opportunity to detain you. 

Depending on how many times you’ve missed court and how serious the crime is the police might actively start looking for you so it’s best to turn yourself in.

Can I Get a License With Outstanding Warrants? 

You are unlikely to get a license if you have outstanding warrants in your name. Driving is seen as a privilege and therefore the DMV won’t issue a license without having the warrant cleared. 

If you did have a driver’s license and a warrant to your name then you’ll likely be caught if the police do a registration check on your vehicle or if they decide to do a routine traffic stop. 

When you have an outstanding warrant your life becomes infinitely more difficult as getting an ID, a license, or applying for a new job becomes next to impossible. This can cause financial stress and constant paranoia about being arrested so the best thing you can do is get the warrants resolved. 


The DMV won’t do a thorough background check on you, what they will do is check your record for any driving offenses, which can hinder your chance of getting a job where usage of a vehicle is required. 

The DMV will also be able to tell if you have any outstanding warrants in your name. As they are a government agency they have a responsibility to ensure that everyone they allow to use their services abides by the law, like resolving any warrants.

bryan rucker
Written by Brian Williams

Brian is an expert in security, privacy, and information. He has studied background checks, criminal, people search, and such topics over the last 5 years. He is also an avid writer and enjoys sharing his knowledge through this blog. Read more of Brian's articles.