Arrest Warrants and Search Warrants – An Overview

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Learn about different types of warrants.

This article provides information on arrests, arrest warrants and search warrants.

An arrest is defined as the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty, usually in relation to the investigation and prevention of crime. Once the decision has been made that an arrest is warranted, a police officer will explain to the individual that they are being arrested. At this time, they will begin reading them their rights, according to the Miranda procedures.

The police officer will place handcuffs on the person and will physically restrain them if necessary. The handcuffs are usually placed with the hands behind the body to make it more difficult for the individual to use their hands toward physical violence or escape. Handcuffing is done even if the individual is not being violent at the time.

The individual is then asked to stand or sit in a particular area or they are placed in the back of the police vehicle. This gives the officer time to assess the situation further and speak to other suspects or witnesses.

In situations where only one or two people are being detained, a typical police squad car is used to hold or transport the individuals. If more than two people are being detained, the law enforcement officers will either use multiple squad cars or bring in a paddy wagon, which is a police van. After being loaded into the car or the van, they are driven to the jurisdiction’s police station, or local jail, processed, and booked.

Depending on the severity of the crime, they will either be released or incarcerated. If the individual is released, the the police may issue a “notice to appear”, specifying where and when a suspect is required to appear in court for their arraignment. If the crime warrants, the individual usually remains incarcerated for a period of time pending a judicial bail determination or an arraignment.

Learn how to Search Police Records to find criminal records and arrest history.

Arrest Warrants and Search Warrants Issuance and Procedures

Most often, the term warrant refers to a specific type of authorization. Warrant usually refers to a writ issued by a competent legal officer, most often a judge or magistrate, which commands an otherwise illegal act that would violate individual rights and affords the person executing the writ protection from damages if the act is performed.

Warrants are typically issued by courts and are directed to the sheriff, constable or a police officer. A typical arrest warrant in the United States will take the approximate form of:

“This Court orders the Sheriff or Constable to find the named person, wherever he may be found, and deliver said person to the custody of the Court.”

Arrest Warrants

An arrest warrant is an official document issued by and on behalf of the state, which authorizes the detention of a specific individual. Police officers obtain a warrant before going to pick up an individual. Sometimes, a warrant is issued in response to an individual’s failure to do something. For example, one is issued when an individual fails to appear in court when they have an assigned court date, law enforcement is notified of the issuance.

Search Warrants

A search warrant is a court order issued by a judge or magistrate that authorizes law enforcement officers to conduct a search on a person, vehicle or location for evidence of a criminal offense and then to seize such items. All jurisdictions with a rule of law and a right to privacy put constraints on the powers of police investigators, and typically require search warrants for searches within a criminal inquiry.

There are exemptions for “hot pursuit” situations. For example, if a criminal flees the scene of a crime and the police officer follows him, the officer has the right to enter a home or building where the criminal is trying to hide.

Citizen’s Arrest: How Private Citizens can Apprehend Criminals

A citizen’s arrest is considered to be a physical detention made by a regular person who is not a sworn law enforcement official, nor are they acting as one. The practice of making a citizen’s arrest dates back to medieval England and English common law, when sheriffs encouraged ordinary citizens to help apprehend criminals in an effort to help control crime.

Tthe arresting person (the person who is conducting the citizen’s arrest) is usually considered to be any person with arrest powers, who need not be a citizen of the jurisdiction in which they are acting. This is an an uncommon practice in current times. However, with the heightened threat of terrorism, many citizens are more watchful and willing to take action to prevent a terrorist act, especially on commercial airline flights. In these situations, many people are willing to take the necessary action to prevent the crime from occurring, rather than attempting to make a formal detention.

The person who is suspected of committing a crime is detained in some way and held until law enforcement officials or police officers arrive on the scene.

Barney Fife helped to make the term famous on an episode of Andy Griffith when the actor yelled, “Citizen’s Arrest!  Citizen’s Arrest!”. It is highly unlikely that you will hear someone use the phrase today, other than in jest.

Why are they important to Private Investigators?

Private investigators are usually not involved in issuing or serving these types of legal documents. However, they may be hired to investigate whether proper procedures and techniques were followed in serving the papers to the appropriate parties. In this situation, detectives are hired either by an attorney or by a private party.

For related information see: Miranda Rights. For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.

If you have any questions about arrest warrants, search warrants, or other related topics, please post a message below.

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