Arrest Warrant 101

An arrest warrant is a court decree that orders a person to be taken into custody and brought before the court to answer charges. The arrest warrant specifies the alleged crime and general facts that support the accusations. The arrest warrant also names and often describes the person alleged to have committed the offense.

Right Against Unreasonable Search and Seizure

To obtain an arrest warrant, a prosecutor, police officer or other complainant must file a written request in a court of competent jurisdiction, a court with authority to hear the matter. In the United States, there are protections that guard against wrongful arrest and detention. Specifically, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable seizures, searches and arrests. The 4th Amendment further mandates that warrants will not be issued unless supported any probable cause and sworn to under oath with a particular description of the person to be arrested. The safeguards afforded by the United States Constitution are echoed in state statutes and laws.

Sworn Statements Need to Show Probable Cause

The request or petition for an arrest warrant must contain sworn statements alleging a crime or offense has been committed. The statements need to establish probable cause to justify the arrest. In other words, the sworn statements must be enough for a judge, magistrate or other judicial officer to conclude that the crime was probably committed as described. If a court decides probable cause exists, then the court will issue a decree for the arrest or detention of the accused.

Arrest and Release on Bail Awaiting Trial

Once the court issues the arrest warrant, law enforcement officers will seek and arrest the person named in the warrant. If and when the accused person is found and arrested, then that person is brought before the court to be advised of the full charges and penalties for the crime. The court can also allow for release pending trial on the matter. The release can be on personal recognizance whereby the accused will be released upon the promise to return to court for trial. The court can also conclude that the nature of the charges or the character of the accused requires some insurance that the accused will appear for trial. At that time, a court will sent bail for the release of accused person with the bail amount returned upon the appearance at trial. If the bail is not posted, then the accused remains in custody until a trial date that can be weeks to months later.

What to Do When Bail is Set Too High to Pay in Full

Many times an accused cannot afford to pay the full bail amount. A bail bondsman can provide bond services whereby the bail will be posted for a fee or premium. The premium is typically a small percentage of the bail and much more affordable. Subsequently, a bondsman can be invaluable to an accused by allowing for release on bail, even if the entire bail is initially too expensive for the accused to pay. If you are ever taken into custody on an arrest warrant and bail is set too high for you to afford, seek the aid of a reputable bondsman as quickly as possible.