An arrest warrant is a legal document signed by a judge or a magistrate that authorizes a police officer to arrest a person who is reasonably believed to have committed a crime.
The arrest warrant will specify the name of the person to be arrested, the crime for which they have been charged and the court that is issuing the warrant. It can also restrict the manner in which the arrest may be carried out.
If the crime was committed in the presence of the police officer, an arrest can be made without a warrant. However, when the police are investigating a crime and have probable cause that you have committed the crime, they may seek an arrest warrant.
They typically will confer with the district attorney or prosecutor to make their case for why an arrest warrant should be requested. Thereafter, they will present their evidence in a signed affidavit under oath to the judge or magistrate detailing why there is probable cause that a crime has been committed and that you committed it. An arrest warrant will then be issued if the judge or magistrate agrees.
How is an Arrest Warrant Different from a Bench Warrant?
An arrest warrant is issued for a suspect of a crime, usually during an active investigation. A bench warrant, as the name suggests, is typically issued by the judge from the bench.
Examples why a bench warrant is issued include failing to appear in court when ordered or for failing to pay child support or a traffic ticket. Once the bench warrant is issued, it is treated like a regular arrest warrant and you can be can be taken into custody.
When Can I Be Arrested After the Warrant is Issued?
Once the warrant for your arrest is issued, the police may arrest you at any time or in any place. For example, if you are pulled over by the police at a DUI checkpoint and are discovered to have an arrest warrant, you can be arrested then. You can even be arrested if you are involved in a car accident where you were not at fault.
While law enforcement may not actively go out and search for you as soon as the warrant is issued, if they do find you, you can be detained immediately and taken into custody where you may be held until an arraignment or similar proceeding.
How Do I Deal with a Warrant for My Arrest?
The best thing to do when you know have an arrest warrant is to address it head on, even if you are not guilty of the crime described in the arrest warrant. You may even be able to get the warrant cleared before you are arrested depending on the nature of the crime for which you are being sought.
For example, if the warrant was issued because you failed to pay a fine or you failed to make restitution to the court, you can arrange to pay your fines or restitutions to have the warrant recalled. However, If your warrant was issued for a felony crime, you may be required to post a bail or will have to be taken into custody in order to have the warrant recalled.
Typically, an arrest warrant is issued for serious crimes with complicated circumstances. This is where a good criminal defense attorney might be helpful. Though limited, your attorney may be able to help you challenge the validity of the arresting warrant on the bases there was insufficient probable cause articulated in the affidavit or because there was a case of mistaken identity.
An attorney can help you gather information about the charges against you, including the bond amount and the factual circumstances under which a warrant was issued for you. Your attorney can work with the police to negotiate the circumstances under which you will turn yourself in so that you are not arrested when you are at work or with your family.
Depending on the type of warrant and the severity of the crime, the attorney may even be able to arrange to have you turn yourself in, and get booked, processed and released on bail the same day.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have a Warrant Out for My Arrest?
An arrest warrant can be highly emotional and stressful as you are constantly wondering when the police will turn up at your job or home to arrest you. If not handled early and competently, it can also result in a heavy financial burden for you.
Consult with a criminal attorney in your state if a warrant for your arrest has been issued so that you fully understand your rights and the full scope of the charges. As well, an attorney can represent you at your arraignment and discuss with you whether there are any challenges to your arrest.