I Have to Change My Name on My Social Security Card and I Have a Warrant for My Arrest

Arrest warrants are hard to outrun. With the advent of broadband Internet access and new data-management programs, communication between local and state law enforcement officials has steadily improved in recent years. Local police departments routinely add to state-level criminal databases that contain records of criminal charges, convictions, outstanding arrest warrants and other pertinent information.

In effect, these databases permit law enforcement personnel to run real-time "background checks" on the citizens with whom they interact on a daily basis. This occurs with regularity: For instance, the officer who "runs" your license after pulling you over for a traffic violation has access to this database and can see any prior traffic violations and criminal convictions on your record. Crucially, he can also see any outstanding in-state arrest warrants.

Your state's Department of Motor Vehicles has access to a similar database. If you attempt to change the name on your driver's license there, DMV staff may notify the authorities of your movements and may transfer information pertaining to the warrant to your new license. Since they'll automatically update your state's criminal database, it's unlikely that you'll be able to escape arrest by changing your name or official address. However, it's also unlikely that the warrant will be executed on the spot. You'll probably be able to walk out of the DMV unmolested.

The federally-run Social Security Administration may not have access to your state's criminal database. Moreover, the SSA lacks the resources to find or arrest fugitives from the law.

Regardless, you may have difficulty changing any of the information contained in your Social Security file. By law, your Social Security number is fixed at your birth and can't be changed. Likewise, the name on your Social Security card serves as your legal name and may be altered only in certain unusual situations.

If there is a conflict between the spelling of the names printed on your driver's license and your Social Security card, you'll need to provide the SSA with a copy of your birth certificate before they'll consider making any changes to your record. You'll need to show that the name on your birth certificate is identical to the name on your driver's license and contradicts the information on your Social Security card.

Likewise, the name on your birth certificate may be used to settle more serious transcription errors. In either case, the status of your arrest warrant won't change.

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