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Arrest Warrant Search

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What Is an Arrest Warrant Search?

An arrest warrant search constitutes a valid search by a law enforcement officer. In order to perform a property arrest arrant search, an officer must obtain valid arrest warrant. An arrest warrant allows the police locate, track down, and arrest a person who is being requested to appear before a criminal court. In the process of arresting the person, the police may need to search the person for weapons, illegal contraband, and other items.

The term "arrest warrant search" can also refer to the process of searching through county records to determine whether a person currently has a warrant for their arrest that is in effect.

When Do Police Need an Arrest Warrant?

The police only need a good reasonable reason to believe that a crime has been committed to make an arrest. However, that would only apply if the arrest was done in a public place. If the police need to go to someones house to make an arrest, they would need to get a arrest warrant from the judge before they can pull someone out of their home to make the arrest.

Are Searches Made During an Arrest Valid?

A search that is made during a valid arrest is called a "search incident to a lawful arrest." This is a specific type of search and is much more limited than a search that is done according to a valid search warrant. Under a search warrant, police can search the area that is listed in the warrant, and can seek for the items or evidence that is listed in the search warrant.

However, a search during an arrest is limited in the following ways:

  • Police can only search the person’s body and clothing, and the area immediately surrounding the person (usually an "arm span" around the person).
  • Police can generally only search for weapons that might endanger the person, or for contraband related to the crime for which the person is being arrested.

Jurisdictions may have different rules regarding the search of the person’s automobile at the time of arrest. In most cases, police can only access a person’s car if the person could have accessed the car at the time of the search (for instance, if the person might have been able to reach into the car to grab a weapon or to conceal evidence).

What If a Search Is Unreasonable or Illegal?

The purpose of such searches during the arrest is to prevent the suspect from escaping, obtaining weapons, or destroying evidence. Any searches beyond these aims generally require a search warrant. In most cases, police will secure a separate search warrant if they need to search for more specific evidence when making an arrest. Unreasonable searches by the police will usually result in the evidence being excluded from the upcoming criminal trial.

Should I Hire A Lawyer If I Need Help with a Warrant?

Arrest and search warrants can often present some complex legal issues. This is especially the case if a search needs to be done along with an arrest. You may need to hire a lawyer if you need help with arrests, searches, or any other criminal matters. Your lawyer can help explain your rights as a criminal defendant, and can provide you with legal representation during court meetings.

Photo of page author Ki Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 01-25-2017 12:42 PM PST

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