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What Types of Warrants Are There?

There are many different types of warrants utilized in the U.S. legal system which make it easier for officers of the law to keep citizens safe and respect the conditions of the U.S. Constitution. Each type of warrant serves it's purpose in aiding law enforcement in fighting crime. Listed below are some of the more common warrants and their functions within the court system.


Criminal or Arrest Warrants
Arrest warrants are used in criminal cases to help law enforcement in arresting an individual and bringing the correct person to justice. An arrest warrant is granted when there's probable cause that a crime has been committed by the person named. Criminal warrants must be signed by a judge in order for law enforcement to make an arrest. Federal statute mandates that arrest warrants be in place to arrest individuals for crimes that weren't committed within the view of a law enforcement officer.


Bench Warrants
Bench warrants are issued by a judge for persons in contempt of court or for individuals who fail to appear for a mandated court date. Bench warrants can apply to both criminal and civil court proceedings. If you intentionally avoid a court appearance to escape the consequences of being found guilty of a crime you risk getting a bench warrant in your name.

If you have a bench warrant and run into police you will most likely be arrested on the spot and held accountable for the pending warrant. A bench warrant authorizes the immediate arrest of the individual whose name is on the warrant. Once arrested for a bench warrant, new conditions will be forced upon you by the law and another court date will be set. If a person is arrested on a bench warrant, the court may declare you a flight risk. You can be held without bail until further notice in the likelihood you will flee.


Search Warrants
A search warrant authorizes law enforcement to search for specific objects to use as evidence or a particular individual in a precise location. Because search warrants are meant to be executed to gather evidence they must be used within a specific time frame or the search warrant will cease to be valid. If the search warrant is not executed on, the warrant is considered void and law enforcement must obtain another search warrant in order to conduct a legal search of property or person. Search warrants must be issued by a judge to be legally carried out. Investigating law agencies need to be able to prove probable cause and have a substantial reason for such a search to exist. This is done by providing evidence in front of a judge in court in relation to the crime.

One exception to forgoing a search warrant is if the police witness someone's life is being threatened or feel their is imminent danger to society. Then an officer can make an arrest on the spot. Police have a sworn duty to protect which will override any search warrants in an emergency situation.


No knock warrant
A no knock warrant is utilized by law enforcement in circumstances that justify an unannounced entry. Essentially, a no knock warrant authorizes officers to legally enter a premise without first announcing their presence or intent. Residents will not have prior notification of the raid by police. Usually, law enforcement will identify themselves just before they forcefully enter the property so that no evidence may be destroyed beforehand. No knock warrants work well in drug cases where police need to secure evidence of drug paraphernalia. A no knock warrant may also be used in cases where danger to the officers is at stake in advance of a known attack. A surprise entry gives law enforcement the upper hand.


Civil Warrants
Civil Warrants are commonly issued in small claims court cases where civil suits are involved. A civil warrant must be signed by a judge in order to be valid. Civil warrants are issued for a specific jurisdiction where the civil case resides. A civil warrant requires an individual to appear in court at a specific location and time. Since civil warrants are rarely enforced due to their non-criminal nature, if you fail to appear for a court date you automatically lose the case. The other party wins and the civil case along with the civil warrant is considered resolved. However, a judge still has the right to hold you in contempt of court for failure to appear if he/she so chooses. You will then be charged with a crime and the judge has the authority  to issue a criminal warrant in your name. It's never wise to ignore court dates for this reason.


Traffic Warrants
Traffic or citation warrants are issued by the police department in regard to unanswered traffic infractions. They can be issued for serious traffic violations including vehicular homicide and DUI's down to parking tickets that have gone unpaid for some time. If you fail to acknowledge a traffic citation or appear in court for a traffic violation it could result in a warrant for your arrest.
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