What Are the Different Types of Warrants?

What Are the Different Types of Warrants

The warrant is a cornerstone of the American justice system. Courts and executive officials can issue various types of these legal documents in criminal or judicial matters to authorize police to conduct an arrest, search a property, or carry out other official business. Here’s what you need to know about the different types of warrants, what it means if you’re facing one, and how you can resolve active warrants to defend your freedom and future.


Understanding Warrants

A “warrant” refers to a legal authorization issued by a judicial or executive officer that permits what would otherwise constitute an illegal act or an act that violates a person’s rights. A warrant gives those executing the warrant immunity from any liability that would otherwise arise from the acts involved in executing the warrant.


Different Types of Warrants

There are a number of different types of warrants in Texas, each allowing for a different type of action. Let’s explore some types in detail.

Arrest Warrants

A judge or magistrate can issue an arrest warrant, which authorizes the arrest and detention of a person suspected of a crime. A court may issue an arrest warrant when law enforcement or prosecutors demonstrate probable cause that the individual named in the warrant has committed a specific crime or series of crimes or when a grand jury indicts a defendant.

Law enforcement requires an arrest warrant to arrest an individual for a misdemeanor offense that does not occur in view of a police officer. However, police typically do not require an arrest warrant to arrest someone for a felony offense. A police officer who encounters an individual with an active arrest warrant must arrest that individual. Arrest warrants also authorize police to enter a person’s home to effect their arrest.

Search Warrants

A search warrant authorizes law enforcement to search a residence, building, vehicle, or container for evidence of a crime. When police find evidence of a crime during a search, they can seize that evidence and turn it over to prosecutors for use in a criminal case. A judge or magistrate can issue a search warrant if police or prosecutors demonstrate probable cause that the location(s) of the search will contain evidence of a crime.

Although police typically require a search warrant to conduct a search, various legal exceptions exist that permit searches without a warrant if police have probable cause to support the search. In certain circumstances, police may search a vehicle during a traffic stop or a dwelling or a person’s body to ensure police officer safety.

DNA Warrant

A DNA warrant is a type of search warrant that authorizes law enforcement to forcibly collect a DNA sample from an individual, usually by taking an oral swab.

Bench Warrants

A court can issue a bench warrant to instruct law enforcement to detain an individual and bring that person before the court to address a legal violation. Courts may issue bench warrants when a person commits a probation or parole violation, fails to appear for a scheduled court date, or violates a court order. When an individual appears before the court on a bench warrant, the court may keep that person in custody or release them with a warning.

Alias Warrants

A court may issue an alias warrant for a defendant who fails to appear in court for a scheduled court date before entering a plea or who fails to respond to a citation (ticket) in person or by mail. An alias warrant imposes an additional criminal charge for failure to appear.

Capias Warrant

The court may issue a capias warrant after it has imposed a fine on a person who subsequently fails to pay the fine. The capias warrant authorizes the person’s detention. The person will remain in detention until they pay the fine. Alternatively, they may request to serve jail time instead of paying the fine.

Execution Warrants

An execution warrant authorizes the imposition of capital punishment on a person sentenced to the death penalty. Judicial or executive officers issue execution warrants when an offender has exhausted all appellate and collateral review rights. The execution warrant sets the date for the offender’s execution, although a court or executive officer can grant a stay of execution.

Extradition Warrants

A law enforcement or executive officer may issue an extradition warrant, which requests the transfer of a fugitive to the requesting party’s jurisdiction. When a person charged with a crime or serving a term of incarceration flees the state or county and gets arrested in another state or country, the first state or county can issue an extradition warrant when it discovers the fugitive’s location. Officers typically issue extradition warrants after a fugitive is arrested in another jurisdiction. However, when a person charged with a crime flees to another country, the U.S. may submit an extradition warrant to that country to request its law enforcement detain that person and return them to the U.S.

Seizure Warrants

A court may issue a seizure warrant that authorizes law enforcement to confiscate property related to criminal activity. For example, a seizure warrant can authorize police to seize money representing the proceeds of criminal activity or property purchased with the proceeds of criminal activity. Seizure warrants for proceeds of criminal activity precede forfeiture hearings, where a court can decide whether the property’s owner should forfeit ownership to the government.

Legal Safeguards for Warrants

For most types of warrants, the party seeking the warrant must demonstrate to a judge, magistrate, or another impartial official that probable cause supports the issuance of the warrant. The probable cause requirement prevents arbitrary or capricious behavior by law enforcement. Although the subject of a warrant typically does not appear during the hearing or proceeding that leads to the issuance of the warrant, they may have the right to file a motion to quash the warrant, rendering it invalid. The court might agree to quash the warrant if the subject of the warrant can present evidence and information that demonstrates the lack of probable cause to support the warrant.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney in San Marcos, TX, If You Have an Active Warrant

Have you discovered that a warrant has been issued against you? Then, get the legal help you need to protect your rights and interests. Contact the Law Office of Case J. Darwin, Inc. today for a confidential consultation with a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options.

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