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What is a Warrant?

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A warrant is a legal document, issued by a judge, which provides police with the permission they need to arrest an individual, search property or seize property. Warrants may be issued for a variety of reasons, but probable evidence must be established before the documents can be issued.

Criminal vs. Civil Warrant

A warrant may be issued in a criminal or civil case. Civil warrants are generally issued when a defendant in a civil case has not complied with the court’s ruling. For example, a defendant in a civil case has been ordered to pay restitution to the injured party – if the defendant refuses to pay the restitution within a specific period of time, the defendant may be arrested and held in jail until the court ordered restitution is paid.

Criminal warrants may be issued in an ongoing criminal case; for example, police collect enough evidence to support the arrest for a suspect in a homicide case or police provide enough evidence to support the arrest of an individual in a drug trafficking case.

Arrest Warrant

Most arrest warrants are issued after police have proved probable cause for the warrants, but warrants for arrest may also be issued if a defendant fails to appear before the court – these types of arrest warrants are known as bench warrants. Bench warrants can be immediately issued by the attending judge if a defendant fails to show for a civil case, or if a defendant out on a bail bond fails to show for a criminal hearing.

Search and Seizure Warrant

Search warrants are very specific documents which provide law enforcement with the legal permission they need to search an area. Search warrants always define the areas which may be searched – whether it’s an entire house, company offices or just a storage unit or garage. If law enforcement breaks the confines of the search warrants all evidence they obtain may be forfeit.

In many instances, seizure warrants are issued at the same time as search warrants. A seizure warrant may also be issued after a civil trial if a defendant refuses to pay court ordered restitution – instead of arresting the defendant, the defendant’s bank accounts, and sometimes possessions which hold monetary value, are seized.

*The information in this article does not constitute legal advice. Please contact a legal professional in your local area for the best up-to-date and accurate legal advice.

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