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The Facts You Should Know About Warrants

Warrants are issued in the United States legal system to assist law enforcement in upholding the law. Using warrants honors the integrity of the U.S. Constitution by keeping citizens safe while respecting the rights of all. In the United States many types of warrants are used each with a specific purpose. Listed below are the most common types to help you more effectively understand the U.S. legal system.

Criminal Warrants
A criminal warrant is a warrant issued by a judge on behalf of the state, which authorizes law enforcement to arrest and detain an individual or search and seize an individual's property in response to a criminal investigation. A criminal warrant is also known as an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant is granted in court when there is probable cause that a crime has been committed by the person named. Other warrants that fall under the category of arrest warrants are alias warrants and bench warrants. Alias warrants are issued when someone fails to appear in court after a citation has been issued. A bench warrant is typically issued after a defendant has been to court for a case, but fails to appear for the next scheduled court appearance.

Most warrants do not expire until resolved and closed with the U.S. court system even after the statute of limitations on the crime has ended. Warrants can only be revoked by a judge in court. An attorney has to file a motion to have the warrant removed from your record even if the statute of limitations on the crime itself has passed.

Search Warrants

A search warrant allows law enforcement agencies to search for specific objects, materials or an individual in a specific location at a specified time. It must be issued by a judge in order to be carried out legally. The investigating agencies or law officers must be able to provide probable cause and a valid reason to conduct a search in front of a judge who will assess the information and make a motion to issue a search warrant or not.

Because the intent of a search is to collect evidence it must be used within a specific time frame or a search warrant will expire. It's then illegal for an investigator to search a location without obtaining another search warrant from a judge. One exception to searching without a warrant is if the police believe someone's life is in immediate danger they can search a private residence or location with out a search warrant.

Sneak and Peek Warrants
A sneak and peek warrant is similar to a search warrant in that it allows law enforcement to search a premise without the owner’s or occupant’s knowledge based on the fact they have substantial evidence a crime has been committed. The difference with a sneak and peek warrant is that nothing is physically disturbed or seized during the search. Law enforcement are there to gather evidence and return later with a traditional search warrant. Sneak and peek warrants work well in illegal drug investigations since they allow the investigation of a premise for evidence of drug paraphernalia.

No Knock Warrants
No knock warrants are used when an unannounced entry is needed. This type of warrant authorizes officers to legally enter a premise without announcing their presence first. Reasons to use a no knock warrant could be for the safety of law enforcement officials by conducting a surprise attack. Also, in cases where the likelihood that evidence will be destroyed if a search is expected a no knock warrant is highly effective in obtaining proper evidence. Federal law enforcement officials may apply for such a warrant based on information that such circumstances exist.

Traffic Citation Warrants

Citation warrants are often issued by the police department for traffic infractions including serious traffic offenses to unpaid parking tickets. If you failed to pay your traffic ticket or contest the ticket for a court hearing you may have a warrant in your name. Typically, if you forget  to pay a traffic ticket you will receive a second notice in the mail with additional late fees tacked on. However, failure to comply with the terms of a traffic citation or appear in court may result in a warrant for your arrest without you even knowing.
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