According to the Supreme Court of the USA, the American Constitution describes the searches, seizures, and arrests made under a lawfully perpetrated warrant. A warrant is a written order passed and signed by a court that authorizes a police officer to search, seize, or arrest.
Searches, seizures, arrests, and evidence seized without a valid warrant are considered presumptively invalid unless the court finds the search was reasonable under the circumstances. The following article will guide on what is a warrant, its issuance, type, and importance.
What is a Warrant in Writing?
In law, a warrant is a document issued by a legal or government official that gives the police or a related authority the power to arrest, search premises, or do some other activity related to the administration of justice.
Warrants provide legal and written authority to conduct justice-related activities such as arrests, searches or seizures of property, investigation of premises and persons, and enforcement of judgments.
Warrants, by definition, appear to be restrictions on individuals and their rights. However, they allow the police to do their job more effectively and serve to protect citizens from illegal searches, seizures, and arrests.
History of Warrants in the US
The British government used a “general warrant” to enforce its laws for many years. These warrants were broad and did not specify why they were issued, and the general warrant placed almost no restrictions on the search or arrest powers of the trooper or sheriff. This concept became a grave problem when those in power issued general warrants to arrest their enemies when nothing wrong had happened.
The Parliament of Great Britain passed the Revenue Act of 1767 Britain, which reaffirmed the legality of warrants or search warrants and gave customs officials broad powers to search homes and businesses for contraband. This act was one of the key acts of Great Britain that led to the American Revolution and is the reason why the American Founding Fathers made general orders illegal in the United States by confirming the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1791.
The Fourth Amendment and Warrant
As per the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,
- A warrant is required to determine the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized;
- No warrants can get issued without probable cause and supported by testimony before a judge.
Courts have recognized many warrantless searches, including exceptions for routine administrative or inventory searches, difficult searches, and consent searches.
A person who is investigated, arrested, or whose property is seized based on an arrest warrant is given a copy of the arrest warrant during its execution.
Who Issues Warrants?
In law, a court issues a warrant through a judge directing a sheriff, constable, or police officer. Police warrants can take several forms, including an arrest warrant and a search warrant.
For the order to be issued, conditions must be met to prevent the violation of civil rights. One of these conditions is a likely cause. Under the concept of probable cause, an arrest warrant, like a search warrant, must be supported by evidence showing probable cause, such as an affidavit.
Warrants can also get issued by other government entities, including legislatures, as most have the power to compel the participation of their members. When the legislature issues an order, it is called the call of the house.
Types of Warrants
There are different types of warrants, but the most common are those listed below:
A search warrant is an order to search a specific property to find evidence of a particular crime. A judge issues an arrest warrant if he finds probable cause to believe that evidence is based on information submitted by the police in the form of a signed and sworn statement.
A magistrate or judge passes an arrest warrant, supported by a signed and sworn statement showing probable or reasonable cause that an individual has committed a crime. A warrant is issued in his name.
An arrest warrant is issued by a public official authorizing an individual’s arrest and detention. In most jurisdictions, an arrest warrant is needed for offenses that do not occur within the police officer’s line of sight.
However, if the police have probable cause, an arrest warrant is usually not needed to arrest a person suspected of a crime.
A bench warrant is an arrest warrant, usually issued when the subject fails to appear for a required court hearing.
Failure to Appear / Alias Warrant
Warrants are issued when a defendant or respondent fails to appear for a scheduled court appearance. The judge can ask the law enforcement authorities to arrest the person named on the arrest warrant.
Capias Warrant/ Capias Pro Fine Warrant
A Capias Warrant is passed when a subject is condemned of a guilty plea either through a court appearance, indictment, or arraignment in jail, then fails to pay a fine or comply with certain specified conditions within a required period.
The only way to solve a Capias warrant is to pay the fine or be released with “time served” by remaining in jail until you have earned enough credit.
A Fugitive Warrant is a warrant issued from another state if the suspect is in the local jurisdiction.
The warrants that come from the Governor’s office so that a suspect who has committed a crime in another state can be arrested and brought back to that state are the Governor’s warrants.
Child Support Arrest Warrant
These are the warrants issued in non-criminal child support matters. It happens when someone who is ordered by a court notice to appear at a child support hearing fails to appear. If a person gets detained on a child support warrant, they will remain in custody until the person pays the amount ordered by the judge.
Civil Capias Warrant
A Civil Capias warrant is a special arrest warrant issued in civil court cases where the defendant fails repeatedly to comply with the judge’s orders. A civil capias warrant is not the same as a criminal warrant. However, the purpose of a civil capias warrant is to bring the person to court for a hearing in a contempt case.
Importance of Warrants
Warrants are necessary because they allow the police to do their job effectively and efficiently while protecting individual rights. It is because injunctions allow conduct that would otherwise be illegal and violate an individual’s rights. For the police, an arrest warrant protects them from the consequences of committing a crime, which can be an arrest, search, or seizure.
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States requires that a court order be presented before the rights of the public can be violated. The warrant must specify the search location, and the person or thing seized. In addition, the warrant must serve as evidence before a judge.
In the United States, a court can recognize a search conducted without a warrant if exceptions exist. Such circumstances include:
- Routine administrative or inventory searches
- Searches conducted in urgent cases
- Searches conducted with the owner’s consent
Overall, a warrant is an order serving a specific type of authority. An order issued by a competent official, usually a judge or magistrate, authorizes an illegal act that violates individual rights and allows the person to exercise judicial protection from harm if the act is carried out. The court issues the warrants, including search warrants, arrest warrants, and executive orders.
What are the basic requirements for a valid search warrant?
An application for a warrant must be backed by a sworn and detailed statement by a law enforcement officer before a neutral judge or magistrate, and there must be probable cause.
Does an officer have to take an oath to obtain a warrant?
Probable cause will not lie unless she swears that the facts supporting the warrant are true. An officer’s oath might be written or oral, but the officer must swear that a false statement was made in support of the warrant and that no statement was made in reckless disregard for the truth.
Can you be searched without a warrant?
The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution protects private citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. According to the Fourth Amendment, police officers must obtain written authorization from a court.
When is the warrant not required?
There are times when the police can conduct a search without a warrant, and most of them are warrantless. Exceptions may be free consent, searches, incident to arrest, etc.