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What are the Requirements for an Arrest Warrant?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP January 20, 2022

An arrest warrant is issued so that law enforcement can arrest an individual and hold them in custody. In order to obtain a warrant, there are certain steps that law enforcement must follow. If you were arrested and believe that law enforcement didn’t abide by the requirements, it’s a good idea to contact a skilled defense attorney right away. If there were errors made during the arrest or when your warrant was obtained, this could help you win your case. 

Obtaining an Arrest Warrant

To obtain an arrest warrant, law enforcement must appear before a judge, magistrate, or grand jury and show them that probable cause exists that a crime was committed by the person they are seeking the arrest warrant for. If it is ruled that probable cause exists, an arrest warrant will be issued, and law enforcement can arrest the individual. 

The arrest warrant must be properly detailed, typically including who is going to be arrested, what they are accused of doing, when and where the warrant was issued, the judge who granted the arrest warrant, and specifics regarding how where and when the arrest warrant can be executed.

What is Probable Cause?

To obtain an arrest warrant, police must show that probable cause exists. This means law enforcement must show that it is likely that a crime occurred and it’s likely that the person they’re trying to arrest committed that crime. There doesn’t have to be irrefutable proof or proof beyond a reasonable doubt at this point. The fact that an arrest warrant is granted only means that there is a reasonable belief that the crime was committed, and it was committed by a certain person. 

Exceptions to the Arrest Warrant Requirement 

It’s important to know the details of how an arrest warrant is obtained, but it’s also important to understand that the police do not always need an arrest warrant to take someone into custody. The following include some of the exceptions to the arrest warrant requirement: 

  • A person commits a misdemeanor offense in front of a police officer. In this case, the police officer can arrest the person right away. It wouldn’t make sense for them to be required to let the individual go free, and then find a judge who can issue a warrant. By the time this happens, they may never be able to find the suspect. 
  • The police officer has probable cause to believe that an individual committed a felony, and they will arrest the individual in a public place.
  • A police officer has probable cause to believe that a crime is occurring or has occurred. 
  • Exigent circumstances exist, such as a belief that there is an emergency or evidence is being destroyed. In this case, police officers can enter a person’s house and arrest them. This is done to make sure that people can’t hide in their house and destroy evidence while waiting for law enforcement to obtain an arrest warrant.

If you were arrested, and you believe the situation was handled illegally or improperly by the authorities, or if you think there may be a warrant out for your arrest and you need help, contact a criminal defense attorney today.