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

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Understanding the complexities of different types of warrants can be overwhelming, especially when your rights are on the line. With years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, I have encountered a wide range of warrant-related cases. 

In this article, I will use my expertise to break down the various warrants you might face and provide essential insights on how to navigate these legal challenges. Stay tuned to learn how to protect yourself effectively.

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 and Probable Cause?

A lawyer looking into warrants

A warrant and probable cause are crucial components of the legal process. A warrant is a writ issued by a competent officer, such as a judge or magistrate, authorizing someone to take action that would be otherwise illegal. The person executing the writ is protected from damages if the act is performed [1].

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

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 You Must Know to Protect Your Rights

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. A warrant committed must be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit showing probable cause that a specific crime has been committed and that the person named in the warrant committed said crime.

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 so that prosecutors can use 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 to issue the search warrant.

2. Arrest Warrant

A judge or magistrate issues a criminal 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. The criminal arrest warrant also must be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit showing probable cause.

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 swabbing mucus or saliva from a 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 property or the person living there.

5. Bench Warrant

A lawyer reading up on Bench Warrants

A bench warrant, also known as an alias warrant, is an arrest or warrant issued or authorized by a judge without a police request.

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 for Law Enforcement Officers?

A warrant works for law enforcement officers by specifying the crime for which an arrest is authorized and may include guidelines for how the writ issued 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. A fugitive warrant is issued when a suspect is believed to be in a different jurisdiction and is wanted for extradition.

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. An accused fugitive is a person who commits a crime in one state and then leaves that state. An extradition warrant is issued to arrest such accused fugitives.

What is a Stock Warrant?

A stock warrant gives the holder the right to purchase a company's stock at a stated price and date, directly from the stock option issuing company.

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.