What is a Warrant?

A warrant is a court order or writ that provides the sheriff or other law enforcement the authority to carry out a legal directive. Without a warrant, the legal action taken could be construed as il-legal or even a violation of a person’s rights.

Type of Warrants:

There are a variety of types of legal warrants for different purposes. Each serves to provide law enforcement the tools to do their job efficiently.

Arrest Warrant

An arrest warrant is used to apprehend someone suspected of a crime, usually a misdemeanor. A judge or magistrate issues the arrest warrant. There must be enough probable cause supporting the request for a warrant and the person requesting it (law enforcement agent), needs to sign an affidavit verifying its necessity. Usually, police officers or the sheriff serve warrants and collect the individuals to bring them in for detention until the hearing or trial.

Search Warrants

If a law enforcement professional believes that a specific location or premise may hold evidence of a crime, they can contact the judge to get a search warrant. If granted, this gives them the right to enter the premises and search for evidence, regardless of whether or not the occupants are present. Again the law enforcement agent must sign an affidavit ensuring the validity of their suspicions and showing probable cause for the warrant.

Other Types of Warrants

Along with arrest and search warrants, there are some other types of warrants for specific law en-forcement purposes. Some of the most common are:

Alias Warrant

The name belies the intent of this warrant which is used in cases where a person fails to show up in court or respond to a legal citation in writing by the specified date. Not appearing in court on the date and time scheduled then becomes another offense against them.

Bench Warrant

A bench warrant is nothing more than another type of arrest warrant but used in cases where the suspect charged with an offense fails to appear in court.

Capias Warrant/Capias Pro Fine Warrant

This type of warrant is for cases where a person loses a trial or hearing and is deemed guilty, and they fail to pay the fines or perform services required by the judge at sentencing within the time-frame allotted. The only way to resolve this is to spend some time in jail or pay the fines in full.

Civil Capias Warrant

A Civil Capias Warrant is specifically for civil cases only where the defendant consistently fails to follow the judge’s orders. In contempt cases, this type of warrant is to get the person to appear in court for the hearing for further sentencing and fines. These types of warrants are sometimes referred to as Body Attachments and Mittimuses.

Fugitive Warrant

A fugitive warrant is used in situations where the suspect has fled to another jurisdiction, and the order for their arrest comes from another state. The two states work together to apprehend the suspect and take them into custody.

Governor’s Warrant

This particular type of warrant comes not from a judge but from the Governor’s office and allows law enforcement to apprehend and return a suspect to their original state where the warrant was obtained.

Top 5 Legal Questions About Warrants

  • How is a warrant issued?
  • Judges issue warrants based on probable cause and tangible evidence against someone committing a crime. Usually, the sheriff delivers the warrant and carries out the arrest, search or directives from the warrant.
  • How can I search for outstanding warrants?
  • You may contact the local courthouse to inquire, or you may also search an online database to make sure there are no outstanding warrants in your name.
  • What should I do if there is a warrant out in my name?
  • It is best to face these things head-on. Contact a defense lawyer and have them be your liaison with the court. If you ignore the warrant, you will eventually be found and taken into custody even if you are stopped for a minor driving offense. If you come forward, things will go much smoother, and your willingness to work with the law will be in your best interest.
  • Can the police search without a warrant?
  • In some cases yes, they can. If they are provided with proper consent from a person residing on the premises, then they can search. If something is in plain site, which appears to be evidence, they can also search without a warrant (for example if they see drugs in your car when stopping you for a driving offense).
  • What makes a warrant valid?
  • An officer of the law with probable cause must initiate the warrant and they must sign an affida-vit confirming the evidence they have on the suspect. The warrant must be issued by a judge or magistrate and be specific to a person, place or thing.
  • Is a Search Warrant Always Required?
  • A search warrant is not always required, and there are instances where police or other officials can search your home, car or property without a warrant. These specific circumstances are: The person was arrested, and that provides probable cause. If the officer suspects that the person may flee, they can search a vehicle. Frisking by an officer, the search is limited to “feel.” A police officer sees something in plain view that indicates illegal activity. There is sufficient suspicion that someone will destroy evidence or flee the scene.