What are Warrants and How Does a Warrant Search Work?
The American justice system is built in a way that allows authorities to enforce the law from the bottom up. The first step in enforcing the law is finding a defendant that has committed a crime and bringing him/her to justice. To do so, the police has to provide a warrant that gives it the right to bring a person into custody. An arrest warrant is a document that allows law enforcement agencies to take a person who is suspected of committing a crime into custody.
In case a police officer suspects a certain individual of committing a crime and wants to make an arrest, he/she must submit a request with an impartial judge that does not have a personal interest in the case. For an arrest warrant to be issued, it must be signed by a person of judicial authority, such as a state judge. Aside from taking an individual into custody, a search warrant, also known as a warrant search, also grant law enforcement agencies with the right to search a suspect's property to find evidence of the crime he/she are suspected of.
Warrants give law enforcement agencies the power to take certain liberties from suspects, so they are limited in certain ways to prevent harming the individual and all their rights. To prevent such harm to civil and human rights, an arrest warrant must specify how the arrest will be carried out, and when it will be carried out. There are certain cases in which arrest warrants will include a bail that allows the suspect to be freed for the sum of money that is specified on the warrant.
History of Warrants
The historical source of warrants dates back to before colonial times when the English government used to issue "general warrants" to bring people into justice. During these early years, warrants were very broad and did not include the reason for the arrest. Also, English warrants were virtually limitless in giving authority to the arresting sheriff or soldier. As time went by, law enforcers began abusing their authority to issue general warrants to settle personal scores they had with people who did them wrong.
To limit the law enforcers power, the Revenue Act of 1767 was passed by the Parliament of Great Britain that gave customs officials broad powers to search for smuggled goods in businesses and private homes. This was a pivotal point in the formation of the US arrest warrants and the American revolution, as well as the reason behind the Founding Fathers' decision that general warrants will be illegal in the newly forming United States.
Later on, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution determined that a warrant will include the possessions that can be seized in the search process. As time went on, exceptions were made to the 4th amendment, and an American arrest warrant will include some form of the phrasing "This Court orders the Sheriff or Constable to find the named person, wherever he may be found, and deliver the said person to the custody of the Court."
What is My Right When there is a Warrant in My Name?
If the police come to your place of residence or any other location to arrest you, they must “knock and announce” that they have a search warrant. Once you allow them in, the police must present you with the arrest warrant that was issued to your name. You are allowed and even recommended to review the warrant to find out what it allows the law enforcement agencies to do. To search your premises, police must provide you with a search warrant.
Warrants do not always include the name of a suspect, so you should know that even such warrants have legal standing. When reviewing the warrant presented to you, you need to make sure it is legal and includes the name of a judge, your name and address, the issue date of the warrant, a description of the places that need to be searched (only when search warrants are issued), a description of the items police are allowed to search, and the agency that is authorized to perform the search and arrest. When you are presented with a warrant, you are allowed to seek legal counseling and defend yourself against the accusations being made against you.
Are Warrants Public Records?
To allow people to find out if there are arrest warrants issued in their name, most authorities in the US made such documents a matter of public records. By entering your name into a check police report system, you can find out if there are outstanding warrants registered to your name. A warrant search free service can let you know about warrants registered to your name, but if you want to find out if there are warrants registered to the names of other people, you can use a professional arrest warrant search.
Who Requests a Warrant and Who Signs a Warrant?
Any law enforcement affiant, such as a police officer, can submit a request for an arrest warrant or any kind of warrant. The affiant must show probable cause based on an affidavit and a sworn testimony. Once probable cause has been demonstrated, a warrant is issued and signed by a neutral judge or magistrate.