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What Is a Warrant?
(5 Most Common Types Detaily Explained)

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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With so much uncertainty surrounding different types of warrants, it can be challenging to identify their fundamental differences.

Drawing from my years of expertise as a criminal defense attorney, I will explain the various warrants that may be brought against you.

Quick Summary

  • There are various types of warrants, including search, arrest, judicial, DNA, and bench warrants.
  • Arrest warrants empower law enforcement to arrest an individual suspected of a crime.
  • As long as police have probable cause, a warrant is usually unnecessary to arrest someone suspected of a felony.

What Is A Warrant?

A lawyer looking into warrantsA warrant is a writ authorizing someone to take action. A writ is permission granted by a judge or another authorized person, allowing an otherwise illegal act that could violate someone's rights. The person who executes the writ is protected from damages if the act is carried out [1].

When a warrant is requested, the judge will meticulously review all available facts before deciding whether to approve or deny it. Upon issuance of the warrant, law enforcement officers can take action accordingly and swiftly.

You must fully comprehend how this criminal process works – particularly if you or someone close has been charged with a serious crime.

Read Also: What Is a Pretrial Diversion Program?

5 Types of Warrants 

A lawyer looking into warrants in a law book

Whether for search, arrest, or other purposes, warrants come in various forms. Nonetheless, the most frequently issued ones are outlined below.

1. Search Warrant

A search warrant authorizes law enforcement officials to search a specific location to find evidence related to a crime [2].

If evidence is found during the search, the police can take possession of it. This is so prosecutors can utilize it in the defendant's criminal case.

An act of search and seizure is considered unreasonable if it is conducted without:

  • A lawful search warrant
  • A probable cause to believe that the place to be searched has evidence related to a crime.

It is important to note that if someone has been issued a search warrant, they can hire a criminal defense attorney to challenge it by filing a "quash and traverse." This motion questions the affidavit used as a basis for issuing the search warrant.

2. Arrest Warrant

A judge or magistrate issues an arrest warrant requiring a signed affidavit to show evidence that a particular crime has occurred and that the person(s) named in the arrest warrant has committed that crime.

3. Judicial Warrant

A judicial warrant, also known as a criminal warrant, is a type of search warrant that law enforcement officers frequently use. When the Fourth Amendment was written, this was likely the type of warrant the authors had in mind.

4. DNA Warrant

A DNA warrant is a type of criminal warrant that permits a law enforcement agent to collect a DNA sample, usually by taking a swab of mucus or saliva from the person's mouth.

It's important to note that a search warrant for someone's home does not permit the officer to collect a DNA sample from the person living there.

5. Bench Warrant

A lawyer reading up on Bench WarrantsA bench warrant, also known as an alias warrant, is an arrest warrant authorized by a judge without a request from the police.

Bench warrants are usually issued when a person fails to appear on a scheduled court date or does not follow a court order.

An alias warrant allows law enforcement to arrest the person immediately when spotted.

How Does A Warrant Work?

A warrant works by specifying the crime for which an arrest is authorized and may include guidelines for how the arrest can be executed.

Usually, to get a warrant, a police officer must provide a written affidavit to a judge or magistrate. 

The affidavit must contain enough factual details given under oath to prove that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and the person named in the warrant is the one who committed it. 

What Happens After A Warrant is Issued? 

A person in handcuffs

After a warrant is issued, the police can arrest and detain you based on the evidence presented to a judge that suggests you may have committed a crime.

This typically happens when the crime occurs outside of the officer's presence.

"The workplace and home are the two most common places for people to be arrested."
- Michael Simmrin, Trial Lawyer at Simmrin Law Group

Related Articles:


What Are The Most Common Warrants?

The most common warrants are arrest, bench, and search warrants.

Can You Be Arrested At Your Place of Business?

Yes, you can be arrested at your place of business. The police must have a valid reason to think you're at home if they try to arrest you there. But if they're trying to arrest someone who's a guest in your home, they need a search warrant.

Is An Extradition Warrant A Different Type Of Warrant?

Yes, an extradition warrant is a different type of warrant. A person who commits a crime in one state and then leaves that state is called an accused fugitive. An extradition warrant is a warrant that is issued for the arrest of such accused fugitives.

Contact A Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

If you were arrested because the warrant was executed unlawfully, you could try to have your charges reduced or your case dismissed. 

You might consider hiring a lawyer if you are facing a criminal offense. You can contact Schmidt & Clark, LLP and talk to our skilled criminal defense lawyers to schedule a free consultation.