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What Is a Blue Warrant?

By Vickie Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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“Blue warrant” is a colloquial term for a parole revocation warrant, which is a tool in the U.S. legal system used to strip convicts of parole privileges. In general, a blue warrant is issued when a person who is on parole violates one or more of the conditions of that release. At least in the U.S., parole is a way that people convicted of crimes can complete their sentences outside of the physical prison. In almost all cases the release is dependent upon adherence to certain rules and regulations. Some of these rules are universal, but others are designed specifically for the convict and his or her circumstances. If these guidelines are not met, the former prisoner is subject to arrest, and a parole revocation warrant will probably be issued. This sort of warrant might also be issued for inmates who were paroled when actually they were ineligible for release.

Understanding Parole Generally

Parole is a sort of reprieve that certain prisoners can earn that allows them to complete their sentences with many if not most of their rights restored, including in many cases living back in their own homes. Whether or not a person is granted parole is almost always a matter of a court or judge’s discretion. Sometimes, particularly in very gruesome or egregious crimes, a person will be sentenced to a certain period of time in prison “without parole.” In all other cases parole is usually an option, but it’s never guaranteed.

Prisoners who are eligible for parole, often on account of good behavior while in prison, typically come before what’s known as a “parole board” for a formal hearing. The panel, which is usually made up of corrections officers and law enforcement officials, determines whether the prisoner can be released and, if so, under what conditions. These conditions are usually taken very seriously. A paroled prisoner may be prohibited from consuming alcohol, for instance, and may not be permitted to be in contact with certain people; in all cases he or she will be banned from committing any other crimes. Should the parolee violate the terms in any way, law enforcement officials can issue a warrant for immediate arrest. People who violate their parole are almost always re-incarcerated, and typically lose many of their privileges in prison, too.

Warrant Process

Most states have clear procedural guidelines for issuing parole revocation warrants. In most cases, parolees are assigned to specific officers to whom they must report, usually on a rigid schedule like once a day or once a week. The officer usually files regular reports on the person’s conduct and behavior, and these reports usually form the basis for any warrant application. Individuals in a state’s parole department review all reports to determine if there is probable cause to believe that a violation of parole conditions occurred.


When a state parole board determines that there is probable cause, a court will typically issue a warrant and the parolee will be detained, but nothing formal happens with respect to the parolee’s record or status until a formal hearing has been convened. In some cases the alleged violator may be granted a preliminary hearing in which a judge will decide if there is probable cause to believe the parolee has violated his parole. If cause is found, a revocation hearing is held; in some cases, a parolee will go straight to the revocation hearing. At the revocation hearing, the board will evaluate the evidence presented and order an action to be taken, which can include revoking the parole.

Both types of hearings occur in two phases. In the first part, evidence is presented about the alleged violations to see if they meet a certain level of proof. If there is enough proof then the second part, called the adjustment phase, is held. In this phase, the board considers the evidence plus other factors, such as work history or compliance with drug treatment. This second hearing is sometimes also known as a mitigation hearing.

Ramifications and Practical Realities

If a sheriff or other official has an individual in custody, he is required to notify the parole department when either a criminal charge has been dismissed or a sentence has been imposed. A person who violates his parole conditions and is arrested on a blue warrant does not qualify to be released from jail on bail. Because bail is almost never available on a this sort of warrant, the parolee will remain locked up pending his hearing.

Importance of Timeliness

The National Institute of Corrections recommended in 1997 that blue warrant processing be accelerated. This was due to a serious backlog in county jails. Guidelines are that the revocation hearing must be held in a timely manner, unless the person is subject to criminal charges or is being held in a correctional facility at the federal level or in a different state.

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Discussion Comments

By anon932663 — On Feb 13, 2014

What is a timely manner? My boyfriend has been waiting 72 days.

By anon342383 — On Jul 20, 2013

How long is considered a timely manner? My fiancee has been waiting two months for his hearing.

By anon298030 — On Oct 18, 2012

I want to know how long it takes for the warrant to go through.

By Catapult — On Jan 15, 2011

Sometimes other warrants can also turn into the equivalent of blue warrants if people do things like try to run from the police or lie about who they are. I find this sadly hilarious, because it seems like if there is a warrant for your arrest, you know better than to try to trick the police of all people; going with the flow until you can get a lawyer would be the best plan, I think.

By vogueknit17 — On Jan 13, 2011

A warrant arrest sounds like such a scary thing, and I can imagine it would be even worse if you knew you could not get out on bail. Part of me feels bad for people who mess up parole, they just don't seem to get it when it comes to thinking about the outcome of your actions.

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