What is an Arrest Warrant?

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Hands cuffed behind a man's backAn arrest warrant is an official document signed by a judge that gives a law enforcement official the right to arrest someone who is suspected of committing a crime. The suspected criminal is put in jail with the intention of holding him or her until the trial date.

Anyone who has been issued an arrest warrant of any kind must obey the law and follow the directions as issued. However, as soon as possible after the arrest, it is advised, first, to speak to an attorney and, second, to contact a Bail Bonds agent to arrange for bond money to be released from jail until the time of the trial.

The Fourth Amendment

Arresting anyone for any crime is regarded as a serious matter in the United States, which makes the issuing of an arrest warrant a serious matter too. There are strict rules and regulations concerning arrest warrants and how they work. The Fourth Amendment in the U. S. Constitution protects citizens “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Following English law, that means the government cannot just break down a person’s door and cart him or her off to jail on a whim or suspicion. It does mean, however, that under certain conditions and lawful purposes, the government can legally produce a document that puts a person in jail until the matter can be legally settled. That’s what a search warrant is, and that’s what a search warrant does.

Although there are some exceptions to any rule, in general, federal agents or police must request a search warrant from a court before they can arrest someone. The court will issue the warrant only if it is convinced that a crime was indeed committed and that the person named in the warrant did indeed commit the crime. That is known as “probable cause.”

If a person is brought to a federal court after an arrest warrant, a grand jury indictment usually must be obtained by the prosecution. Evidence is presented by the prosecution to the grand jury, which must decide if probable cause exists. If so, the trial begins.

There are four types of warrants:

* Felony warrant is used for serious offenses such as murder or assault. Penalties for conviction would likely mean at least a year in jail. * Misdemeanor warrant might include harassment, prostitution, or shoplifting and carries a jail penalty up to 12 months or a fine or both. * Bench warrant is used by a judge, usually after a person fails to appear in court when ordered. The penalty may be jail time. * Outstanding warrant means that police have not been able to find the person on time, so the warrant remains open indefinitely until the arrest occurs.