Warrants are required for police officers to arrest suspects and acquire evidence in certain types of criminal cases. While most people have heard the terms “arrest warrant” or “search warrant” on television, many have no idea how to respond to these warrants or how to confirm whether they are legitimate.
If a police officer does not follow proper procedures when serving a warrant, it could play a huge role in your defense.
Types of Warrants
A warrant is a legal document that allows a police officer to search a premises or vehicle for evidence, arrest a suspect in a criminal case, or bring a defendant or witness into a criminal court when they do not show up for a trial or hearing. These court orders must be approved by a judge or other legal magistrate, and police officers must follow specific procedures to ensure they are valid.
The three main types of warrants in California are:
- Arrest Warrants: In most cases, police officers need probable cause to arrest a suspect for a crime. If a suspect commits a crime in front of an officer or the officer has probable cause that the suspect has committed a felony, the officer can arrest the suspect on the spot. However, for misdemeanor crimes or cases where an officer did not see the crime, the police will need to request an arrest warrant from a judge. An arrest warrant may have limitations, such as the police only being able to arrest the suspect during certain hours.
- Search Warrants: Again, police officers require probable cause to search a suspect’s home, vehicle, office, or other property unless the suspect grants them permission. Search warrants are also approved by judges in order to facilitate police investigations, but there are limitations. For example, an officer may use a search warrant to search a clinic for prescription drug fraud, but certain files may be protected under patient privacy laws. The search warrant must clearly state what crime the suspect has allegedly committed and what reason the police have to search his or her property.
- Bench Warrants: Bench warrants apply to criminal trials or hearings when a defendant has not shown up to court. When this occurs, the judge can grant the police a bench warrant to legally bring the defendant into custody. It is similar to an arrest warrant but only applies to current criminal trials. Unlike other warrants, bench warrants do not require probable cause.
How Do I Know If a Warrant Is Valid?
In most cases, police officers need a warrant to arrest a suspect or search his property and the warrant must be approved by a judge. Without a warrant, an officer may be violating your Fourth Amendment Rights, which grant protections against “unwarranted” searches and seizures. There is a specific process all officers must follow to acquire a warrant:
- The officer must file a complaint stating that he believes a crime has been committed.
- The officer must explain in a document why he believes he has probable cause.
- The officer must make a sworn statement (an affidavit) in front of a judge.
- The judge must review the details of the complaint and determine if a warrant is justified.
- The judge must draft and sign the warrant before the officer can search the suspect’s property or arrest the suspect on criminal charges.
For a warrant to be valid, it must include:
- The alleged crime that has been committed.
- The name of the person who allegedly committed the crime.
- When and where the warrant was issued.
- The signature of the judge or magistrate who approved the warrant.
- If it is an arrest warrant, the amount of bail for the alleged crime.
- If it is an arrest warrant for a misdemeanor, approval for a nighttime arrest.
Police officers are required to show suspects the warrant when requested, and you should thoroughly read it to ensure all the details are correct. If they have the wrong name on the warrant, it is not signed, or it is being issued outside of the approved time period, it may be invalid.
How Should I Respond to a Warrant?
If you have received a search or arrest warrant, calmly ask to see it and read it carefully. You should always keep your cool around police officers and respond politely. If they arrest you, they are required to issue you your Miranda Rights, which include the right to remain silent. You should always exercise this right and put it into effect by saying so: that you are exercising your right to remain silent. The other right you need to exercise is your right to an attorney, so contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney at Law Office of Michael L. Guisti.
Our legal team can review the nature of your arrest or search warrant to determine if the officer has committed misconduct. We can also develop a defense strategy in a free consultation so you can begin fighting the charges as soon as possible. If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime in Orange County, contact us immediately at (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999.