Warrants: What You Need to Know

There are several different types of warrants issued, but they all have a couple of general things in common. A warrant is a document issued by an authorized individual or a judicial officer, such as a judge, commanding or giving permission to the police to act out or administer some action in the name of justice.

As stated before, there are several different reasons to issue a warrant, some are a result of people jumping bail and some are a result of criminal activity.  The 4th Amendment is clear on the conditions of a warrant.

The U.S. Constitution’s Limit on a Warrant

The U.S. Constitution is pretty clear about warrants. Probably Cause is a legal term, which is the condition of a warrant. It is required, along with some evidence to back it up, before a warrant is issued by an authorized court official. The 4th Amendment also says a warrant has to be pretty clear about the person or place being searched. It also needs to be specific about what is being sought out or seized. In other words, the who, what, where, when and why questions have to be answered by the warrant.

The Criminal Warrant and Its Variations

The reason this needs to be specified is due to the difference in criminal and civil warrants. A lot of people are unaware there was a difference. Criminal warrants are issued for a variety of reasons when applied to a criminal case. Several warrants may need to be issued in the course of a criminal case to collect evidence, or perhaps only one is needed at the time of an arrest to search a vehicle or to perform a blood test on a suspected drunk driver. There are three different types of criminal warrants issued.

The Arrest Warrant

The arrest warrant is the first of the three criminal warrants, and it is issued when probable cause is given. If probable cause is provided, then a judge or an authorized official of the court will issue an arrest warrant giving permission or an order for someone in law enforcement to execute an arrest on a specific person. The foundation of an arrest warrant is the person being arrested is charged with breaking the law. The description of the crime must be contained within the arrest warrant, and the name or description of the person being arrested must be contained within warrant. There are instances when warrants do not identify a person by name, and these warrants are sometimes called a no-name warrant or a John Doe warrant.

The Search Warrant

A search warrant is the type of criminal warrant most people think of. It is also issued by an authorized court official or a judge, and it gives permission or orders law enforcement to search a person, premises or both for some sort of specific property or evidence. Usually, search warrants are issued to seek out evidence in a crime. The type of evidence has to be specified by established court rules or statutes of law, and good examples of typical property searched for and seized includes things like weapons, DNA samples, contraband, the results of a crime or things used in the commission of a crime. Probable cause is mandatory for a search warrant as well, and it is supplied based on a sworn statement issued to the court for review called an Affidavit.

The Bench Warrant

A bench warrant is the final type of criminal warrant issued by the court. It is usually called a bench warrant because it is issued from the judge’s bench at court or by the court. It orders law enforcement to bring a specific person in front of the court. It is most commonly issued when someone fails to show up for court in response to a citation, summons or subpoena. It is also issued in felony cases when a person jumps bond. People being held in custody needing to be transferred to court for a hearing or trial also have bench warrants issued. If a person fails to obey a court order, then they are at risk of having a bench warrant issued.
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