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What are the Different Types of Warrants?

By Charity Delich
Updated: May 16, 2024

A warrant is a court-sanctioned document that authorizes a person, usually a law enforcement officer, to take a particular action. Many different types of warrants are available, including criminal and civil warrants. A criminal warrant is typically used to secure evidence or apprehend suspects in criminal cases. A civil warrant can be used for a variety of purposes in civil lawsuits, such as seeking monetary relief or recovering personal property.

Common types of warrants in criminal cases include arrest warrants and search warrants. An arrest warrant is usually designed to detain a person who is suspected of committing a specific crime. By and large, an arrest warrant is granted when probable cause supports that a crime has been committed by the person listed in the warrant.

If a defendant fails to make an initial appearance in court after a citation has been issued, the court may issue an arrest warrant known as an alias warrant. For instance, if a defendant does not show up in court after being summoned on a speeding ticket charge, the court may hand out an alias warrant for the defendant’s arrest. Another kind of arrest warrant, known as a bench warrant, is sometimes issued to a defendant who fails to make his or her next scheduled court appearance.

Search warrants are other common types of warrants. Customarily, a search warrant is issued for the purpose of permitting law enforcement officers to search a person or private property. These warrants allow officers to investigate evidence about a crime that has been committed. In general, courts require an officer to submit a sworn statement when requesting a search warrant. Usually, the warrant must describe with particularity the person or place to be searched as well as the property being sought.

In civil cases, there are several different types of warrants. For example, if a plaintiff is seeking monetary relief from a defendant, the plaintiff may file a civil warrant in debt. A warrant in detinue can be used by a plaintiff who wishes to recover personal property wrongly obtained by a defendant. Generally, civil warrants are used for small claims court actions, and they require basic information, like the defendant’s name and address as well as the claim amount and basis. Usually, a plaintiff must pay filing and sheriff fees in order to serve the warrant on the defendant.

Other types of warrants that are frequently used in the United States are federal and state warrants. A federal warrant is usually issued by a federal judge or magistrate in a criminal case after a federal attorney or law enforcement officer has presented a statement of facts in support of the warrant. State warrants typically allow for arrest of an individual in a criminal case, and they are usually granted by or on behalf of a state.

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Discussion Comments
By anon990585 — On Apr 28, 2015

After 13 turn downs for job I conducted my own background check on myself and found that I had a "cashier warrant" for failing to pay a court imposed traffic violation fine two years ago. The clerk at the Hall of Justice said, "Unfortunately the average hiring manager does not understand the difference in warrants and treats all warrants the same. So basically, because I did not pay a $155 fine, I don't get a job.

By anon324398 — On Mar 10, 2013

What does this mean: "Bench warrant issued, discharged and held" in a civil case when the person has not appeared in court three times?

By anon299161 — On Oct 23, 2012

Can I file a civil warrant without an attorney? My ex is holding my child and won't give her back even tho it's ordered for him to bring her back on Sundays and he refuses to hand her over. I need a warrant so that the cops can go get her and to have an attorney do it is $1,500. I need some advice!

By bfree — On May 28, 2011

@MsClean – Sorry to hear about the unfortunate event with your cousin and your husband’s car. Luckily you weren’t directly involved in anyway other than your checkbook that is.

You can check for warrants at your local courthouse or in the county where the warrant was issued. Most court websites have a searchable data base of public records.

You can also find warrants by calling the county clerks office if they don’t have a searchable data base. They should be able to direct you from there if you can provide them with enough information. Good luck.

By MsClean — On May 26, 2011

My husband’s cousin was arrested for driving under the influence in my husband’s car. The Police took his license away, impounded the vehicle and held him in jail for about 48 hours.

After he got out, he somehow obtained a State ID, bought a plane ticket and flew out of here. We don’t know for sure if he flew back home or took off somewhere else.

A week or so later an officer came to our house with an arrest warrant looking for him. He had given them our address at the police station plus it was on the impounded vehicle registration form.

Is there any way to find out if there’s still an outstanding warrant on him? I just hate the fact that our property has been associated with his wrong doing.

It's been several weeks since the incident and we haven't heard anything more about it.

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