A written order issued by a judicial officer or other authorized person commanding a law enforce ment officer to perform some act incident to the administration of justice.
Warrants are recognized in many different forms and for a variety of purposes in the law. Most commonly, police use warrants as the basis to arrest a suspect and to conduct a search of property for evidence of a crime. Warrants are also used to bring persons to court who have ignored a subpoena or a court appearance. In another context, warrants may be issued to collect taxes or to pay out money.
The FOURTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution states that "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." There are three principal types of criminal warrants: arrest warrants, search war rants, and bench warrants.
An arrest warrant is a written order issued by a judge or other proper judicial officer, upon probable cause, directing a law enforcement officer to arrest a particular person. An arrest warrant is issued on the basis of a sworn com plaint charging that the accused person has committed a crime. The arrest warrant must identify the person to be arrested by name or other unique characteristics and must describe the crime. When a warrant for arrest does not identify a person by name, it is sometimes called a "John Doe warrant" or a "no name warrant."
A SEARCH WARRANT is an order in writing, issued by a judge or judicial officer, commanding a law enforcement officer to search a specified person or premises for specified property and to bring it before the judicial authority named in the warrant. Before issuing the search warrant, the judicial officer must determine whether there is probable cause to search based on the information supplied in an AFFIDAVIT by a law enforcement officer or other person. Generally the types of property for which a search warrant may be issued, as specified in statutes or rules of court, are weapons, contraband, fruits of crimes, instrumentalities of crimes (for example, a mask used in a ROBBERY), and other evidence of crime.
A bench warrant is initiated by and issued from the bench or court directing a law enforcement officer to bring a specified person before the court. A bench warrant is used, among other purposes, when a person has failed to appear in response to a subpoena, summons, or citation. It is also used when an accused person needs to be transferred from jail to court for trial, and when a person's failure to obey a court order puts her or him in CONTEMPT of court. A bench warrant is sometimes called a "capias" or an "alias warrant."
Warrants may be used for financial transactions. For example, a private individual may draw up a warrant authorizing another person to pay out or deliver a sum of money or something else of value.
A warrant may be issued to a collector of taxes, empowering him or her to collect taxes as itemized on the assessment role and to enforce the assessments by tax sales where necessary.