A warrant is a document that gives authority to law enforcement to search a vehicle or structure to perform a search for certain items or to make an arrest of a particular person.
Below our attorneys explain what arrest warrants are, who issues them, and how to handle the situation if you have an active warrant for your arrest.
- What Is An Arrest Warrant?
- What Information Must Be Included In The Arrest Warrant?
- How Are Arrest Warrants Executed In California?
- What happens if an arrest warrant is executed at your house?
- Can I be arrested at any time of day if I have an arrest warrant?
- Can you be arrested at any time of day on a felony arrest warrant?
- What Can Be Done If Arrest Warrants Were Not Executed In A Reasonable Time?
- How Long Does It Take To Issue A Warrant?
- Can evidence gathered when an arrest warrant is executed be excluded?
- Can police enter your home with an arrest warrant if you are not there?
- How Do You Know if You Have A Warrant?
- Can I check for a warrant online?
What Is An Arrest Warrant?
An arrest warrant grants authority to a peace or law enforcement officer to make an arrest.
What Information Must Be Included In The Arrest Warrant?
- The defendant’s name or, if not known, a sufficient physical description or other name or alias by which the defendant may be identified with some certainty.
- A description of the offense for which the defendant has been charged.
- The time of issuance.
- City and county where it was issued
- Name of the court
- Amount of bail for bailable offenses (non-bail offenses are serious felonies involving violence in which other people risk harm if you were released)
- Time or hours within the defendant may be arrested (unless a felony)
- A command that the defendant be arrested promptly and brought before a judge or magistrate or state or local judicial officer if none is found.
- Signed by a judge or magistrate1.
Arrest warrants are effectuated immediately, whereas bench warrants are not necessarily effectuated right away.
It is not uncommon for a bench warrant to be outstanding for months or years.
How Are Arrest Warrants Executed In California?
If found, the officers may or may not display the warrant to the defendant or if unavailable, advise the defendant of its existence and display the original or certified copy to the defendant at a later time if requested, usually by the defendant’s attorney.
Are officers required to display a warrant?
There is no requirement that the officer display or even advise the defendant of the existence of an arrest warrant2.
In many cases, officers on duty are unaware of the warrant until a traffic stop is made or in some other situation in which identification of the person requested reveals that a warrant is outstanding.
What happens if an arrest warrant is executed at your house?
If officers arrive at your home to arrest you, they may forcefully take you or break into your house but only if they have probable cause to believe you are inside3.
If they are arresting someone else in your home who is not a resident, the police must have a search warrant accompanying the arrest warrant4.
Will a mistake on the warrant invalidate it?
Can I be arrested at any time of day if I have an arrest warrant?
Misdemeanor arrest warrants may only take place between 6:00 am and 10:00 p.m. unless a judge indicates a nighttime authorization on the warrant to extend those hours5.
Can you be arrested at any time of day on a felony arrest warrant?
Felony arrest warrants do not have time restrictions5.
Arrest warrants are supposed to be executed within a reasonable time.
There are cases that have been dismissed if too long a time has passed since its issuance and no arrest has been made since the defendant’s right to a speedy trial has been violated.
This does not apply to penal code 187 which is homicide or other serious violent or sex crimes where there is no statute of limitations on when you must be prosecuted or the charges will be dismissed.
What Can Be Done If Arrest Warrants Were Not Executed In A Reasonable Time?
Motions to dismiss an arrest warrant for untimely prosecution are called “Serna Motions.”
You have to prove that you have been prejudiced by the passage of time because evidence has been lost, witness’ memories have faded or relevant persons have passed away and that the lack of prosecution was due to law enforcement’s laxity or incompetence.
It is not uncommon for a defendant to be arrested in a different county than the one from which the warrant was issued. In such cases, you must be advised of your right to be brought before a judge in the county where you were arrested6.
Your bail, if indicated in the warrant, will be the same. Once bail is posted, you have to appear before the judge who issued your warrant within 25 days7. In misdemeanor cases where no bail is set, you can have the judge in the county where you were arrested set bail.
If there is no bail indicated (felony matter), or you do not post bail or demand to face a judge in the county where you were arrested, then you have to be transported to the county where your arrest warrant was issued within 5 court days of your arrest8.
What is a Fugitive from Justice?
If arrested out-of-state, you may be considered a “fugitive from justice” if you were aware that an arrest warrant had been issued for you and you intentionally left the state to avoid capture.
Who Issues An Arrest Warrant In California?
A judge will issue an arrest warrant by way of two situations.
The judge issues an arrest warrant by way of a written affidavit given under oath presented by a police officer or assistant prosecutor or following an indictment by a grand jury.
- The affidavit must sufficiently identify a person and the crime for which he or she is accused of violating.
- There must be a sufficient factual basis constituting a reasonable belief, or probable cause, to believe this individual committed the crime9.
The officer must have a sound basis such as eyewitness testimony from reliable witnesses that identified the person so named as the alleged perpetrator.
How does an arrest warrant via a grand jury indictment work?
Arrest warrants may also be issued by a judge if a grand jury indicts a defendant.
Grand jury hearings are held in secret with the evidence presented only by a prosecutor. If a grand jury believes there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and this person committed it, then it will indict the person.
A judge will then issue a warrant for the person’s arrest.
How Long Does It Take To Issue A Warrant?
There is no time limit on when an arrest warrant may be issued so long as it is within the statute of limitations, if applicable, for that offense although the long passage of time may be considered prejudicial.
In many cases, there is eyewitness testimony or forensic proof (fingerprints on a murder weapon or DNA evidence on a body part). It may only take a matter of days or less for the prosecution to request an arrest warrant and for the judge to immediately issue it.
Sometimes Evidence From An Arrest Warrant Is Excluded
This could result in there being insufficient evidence that is admissible to convict you and forcing the prosecution to decline prosecution. If there is some incriminating evidence that is admissible, it might result in a lesser charge against you.
Can police enter your home with an arrest warrant if you are not there?
If police do not have probable cause to believe you were at your home when they arrived to arrest you but made a forcible entry anyway and seized incriminating evidence, that evidence is subject to being suppressed by your defense attorney for unlawful seizure.
Similarly, if you were arrested outside of the time limits on a misdemeanor charge, any evidence seized might also be suppressed on a motion by your criminal defense lawyer.
How Do You Know if You Have A Warrant?
If you suspect that there may be a warrant out for your arrest you should contact either a bail bondsman and see if they have access to the warrant database in your local county or a criminal defense attorney.
How can an attorney help you?
If you have retained an attorney and you have an outstanding arrest warrant, your attorney can often negotiate to arrange for bail, if not already indicated. Your attorney can also ask for a reduction of the bail amount or have you released O.R. with a future court date, or bring you in for booking and release once bail is posted.
Can I check for a warrant online?
Some counties may have a warrant search option on their website but most do not.
For example the site to search for an arrest warrant in orange county is http://ws.ocsd.org/ArrestWarrants/
We can determine:
- If there is an existing warrant
- What the warrant is for.
We may be able to take you directly to court and get the arrest warrant cleared without you having to spend time in jail10.
Contact us at 818-351-955 for a free confidential consultation.
- California Penal Code 815
- California Penal Code 842
- California Penal Code 844
- People v. Dyke, (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 648; See Also Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204 (1981).
- California Penal Code 840
- California Penal Code 822.
- See Same Penal Code 822
- California Penal Code 821.
- California Penal Code 817: See also People v. Sesslin, (1968) 68 Cal.2d 418
- Our arrest warrant defense attorneys handle cases with active arrest warrants in the following areas inluding Santa Clarita Valley, Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, Southern California, Los Angeles County, Santa Monica, Hollywood, Glendale, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Studio City, Burbank, Van Nuys, Chatsworth, San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Valencia, Palmdale, Lancaster, Pasadena, Alhambra, Malibu, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, Orange County, San Bernadino County.