Warrants – What you need to know

“Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution were added immediately following the ratification of the new Constitution, on March 4, 1789, and are known as the Bill of Rights. They outline basic rights and protections of the citizens of the new nation. The Fourth Amendment provides that the rights of the citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall only be abridged when probable cause exists, with a warrant that is supported by an Oath or affirmation, which describes the place to be searched and/or the persons or things to be seized.

In this short phrase, we see the foundation for two types of Warrants in modern judicial practice: search warrants, and arrest warrants. In practice today, arrest warrants come in two types, the arrest warrant, which normally is asked for by police or prosecutors, from a court of competent jurisdiction; or a bench warrant, which is issued directly from a court without a request from other officials.

The bench warrant will be issued when an individual has violated the orders or procedures of a court, for example, when a person doesn’t appear before the court when summoned or subpoenaed. Since the warrant is issued directly from a judge, otherwise known as the bench, the bench warrant differs only in its origination, not in its effect.

The founders saw this as a protection against the types of abuses, which were practiced while under British rule. British soldiers in the colonies would claim to carry out the edicts of the monarch by seizing other’s property, or to place people in jail or prison, without any review by judicial process, or “due process,” as provided in the Fifth Amendment.

In modern practice, a warrant will allow police to abridge the constitutional rights of life, liberty, and property, only when accompanied by the affirmative statement and description of the scope of the search or arrest, and with the consent of a judge or court.

As an example, when you receive a traffic citation today, you are receiving a summons from the court, served by an officer of the court, the police officer, specifying the date and time of the court. If you fail to appear, or you have failed to pay fines associated with the citation, you are then subject to the next level of court power, the warrant issued by the judge, or bench warrant.

Typically, an arrest warrant, usually reserved for more serious violations of the criminal code will be acted upon immediately, and police will search the subject of this warrant out and arrest them as soon as possible. The subject of a bench warrant may be searched out by police, based on the severity of the crime, whether it is a violent crime or a non-violent crime, and the wishes of the court as specified in the warrant. In the case of a traffic citation the warrant may be acted upon when the person next presents themselves before an officer of the court. For example, if you are stopped by police for a subsequent traffic violation and an open warrant exists, you will then be arrested and brought before the court.

Bench warrants of this type, can be suspended, by in the interim, by a request to the court to “quash” the warrant. If the court agrees, an order to quash the warrant will be issued. A court order to quash a warrant will suspend the police’s obligation to arrest you and bring you before the court.

The Defenders can help

If you have failed to appear before a court, have neglected to act on court orders, or have neglected to pay fines, you may have warrants outstanding. The attorneys at the Defenders have the experience to get your warrants quashed. Once the warrant is quashed you will then be able to address the underlying causes of the warrant without fear of arrest. Call us today for assistance in finding open warrants, and requesting quashing the warrant at (702) 333-3333.

Practice Areas