A warrant is a legal document that authorizes law enforcement officers to take certain action. There are three main types of warrants: arrest warrants, bench warrants, and search warrants. It’s important that you understand what these warrants allow officers to do, when they are necessary, and what you should do to protect your rights.
How do arrest, bench, and search warrants work in the state of Florida? How can a Tampa criminal defense attorney help you handle a warrant that has been issued with your name on it? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.
What Are Arrest Warrants?
An arrest warrant is a legal document signed by a judge that authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest the person named in the document. A warrant will typically contain information regarding the crime that the person is accused of committing.
The warrant may also establish rules regarding when law enforcement officers are allowed to arrest the person named in the warrant. For instance, the warrant may only allow officers to arrest the individual during certain hours or at certain locations.
If an officer wants to obtain an arrest warrant, they must submit a written affidavit to a judge. The affidavit must summarize why the officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and the person named in the warrant has committed it. Basically, it should summarize the evidence that law enforcement has gathered that has made the person a suspect in a criminal investigation.
The judge will review the affidavit to determine whether or not probable cause has been established. If the evidence is too vague or unconvincing, the judge will not sign the arrest warrant.
For example, say an officer wants to obtain an arrest warrant to arrest someone who they suspect of committing robbery. The affidavit includes a general description of the suspect provided by an eyewitness. But the description is vague, so hundreds of people could match it. Based on this alone, the judge probably would not sign this arrest warrant since this is not enough to establish probable cause.
But if the judge believes that probable cause has been established, they will sign the warrant and authorize law enforcement to arrest the person named.
An arrest warrant is not always needed to make an arrest. Sometimes, officers can make an arrest without an arrest warrant. For example, if you commit a crime right in front of a police officer, the officer may arrest you without going through the process of obtaining an arrest warrant.
What Are Bench Warrants?
A bench warrant is similar to an arrest warrant. This type of warrant authorizes law enforcement officers to place someone under arrest—just like an arrest warrant. Unlike an arrest warrant, a bench warrant is only issued when someone has violated the rules of the court. A judge will issue a bench warrant to arrest the individual as a result of this violation.
For example, a judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest if you are a criminal defendant who is out on bail and you fail to appear for a scheduled court hearing. A bench warrant can also be issued for your arrest if you have been subpoenaed and you have failed to appear for a hearing or trial.
Once a bench warrant is issued, it is treated exactly like an arrest warrant.
What Are Search Warrants?
A search warrant is a legal document signed by a judge that authorizes law enforcement officers to conduct a search at a specific location in order to seize certain items. A search warrant allows law enforcement officers to look for and seize evidence of criminal activity.
The process of obtaining a search warrant is similar to the process of obtaining an arrest warrant. Law enforcement officers must submit a written affidavit to a judge that outlines the reason why they need the warrant. They must prove to the judge that they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring at the specific location or evidence of criminal activity may be found at the specific location.
The judge will review the affidavit to determine if the officer has successfully established probable cause. If so, they will sign off on the search warrant.
The warrant will contain very specific information regarding where the officers can and cannot search. For example, the warrant may specify that the officers can only search the backyard of a home, rather than the home itself. Law enforcement officers cannot search any area that is not included in the warrant.
The warrant will also contain specific information regarding what the officers can look for when conducting the search. However, this does not mean they are only allowed to seize the items listed in the warrant. If they come across evidence of criminal activity while conducting a search, they may be able to seize it even if it is not specifically mentioned in the warrant.
In most cases, the police will need a warrant to search your person or property. But sometimes, the police can conduct a search without a warrant. For instance, if you give an officer permission to conduct a search, they will not need to obtain a warrant first.
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If you are facing criminal charges in the greater Tampa Bay area, it’s in your best interest to contact the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. Our team has been dedicated to helping the accused protect their rights and fight for their freedom since 1971. We have the legal experience, knowledge, and resources that it takes to reach the best possible outcome in your case.
Let us stand by your side and aggressively fight your criminal charges. Call our law firm now to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.