A warrant is simply a legal order issued by the court authorizing law enforcement officials to perform some specified act in order to further the administration of justice. Warrants are issued in the United States for a variety of reasons but are most commonly used as the basis to:
- Arrest a suspect,
- Search a suspect’s home and/or car for evidence of a crime, or
- Bring a person to court who has ignored a subpoena or a court order to appear.
In most states, there are three different types of warrants that can be issued against you: a bench warrant, an arrest warrant, and a search warrant. If a warrant has been issued for your arrest, then it is either a bench warrant or an arrest warrant. Let’s take a closer look at these two warrant categories.
A bench warrant is a court order to immediately arrest you. A bench warrant may be issued whenever a defendant fails to appear in court as required by law. For example, a bench warrant may be issued against you if you failed to appear in court after:
- A judge or magistrate ordered you to personally appear at a specific time and place.
- Being released from custody on bail and the condition that you will appear in court at a specific time and place.
- Promising to appear in court at a specific time and place as a condition of being released from custody.
If a bench warrant has been issued against you, then a law enforcement officer can arrest you and bring you to jail at any time. If this happens you may be deemed a flight risk and required to stay in custody until your hearing. If bail is granted and you are able to post it, then you will be released on the condition that you will voluntarily appear at a specified date and time for your hearing.
Please note that under some circumstances an attorney can request that your bench warrant be recalled and that the matter be referred to a judge for resolution.
An arrest warrant is similar to a bench warrant in that it allows law enforcement officers to immediately arrest you, however this type of warrant is issued when there is probable cause to believe that you’ve committed a crime, opposed to a bench warrant that is issued because you failed to appear in court. Probable cause is a complicated legal concept, but for now suffice it to say that probable cause exists when the apparent facts would lead a reasonable person to believe that you committed some specific crime.
Once an arrest warrant is issued against you law enforcement officers are authorized to arrest you wherever you are. This means that that they can enter your home, place of employment, etc. and arrest you at any time.
Contact a Local Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in San Francisco for help in defending against these charges.
Thanks to the Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and your constitutional rights.