A capias is a legal writ issued by a judge, authorizing law enforcement personnel to arrest an individual and take that person into custody. Also known as an arrest warrant, a capias is an important legal and law enforcement tool. There are a number of different kinds of warrants available for use, and in addition to being executed by law enforcement, such writs can also be carried out by people like bounty hunters.
For a capias to be issued, a judge must be shown compelling evidence to justify an arrest and detention. Deprivation of personal liberty through arrest is deemed a very serious matter in most legal systems and a judge will not issue a warrant if there is no legal justification to do so. Examples of situations when a capias can be written include: if someone fails to appear in court, does not comply with the terms of a court order, or is strongly suspected of having committed a crime.
This word is derived from the Latin for “to seize.” The document should name the subject, clearly state why the warrant is being issued, and indicate the terms of the warrant. It can also include the last known address of the subject, along with identifying information to help law enforcement confirm they have the right person when they execute the warrant. The person executing the warrant must clearly identify the subject before performing the arrest and conveying the person to court or detention.
Once issued, a capias will remain outstanding until the person is brought into custody or the judge cancels the writ. Legal writs will go on the subject's record. If the subject is given a background check in another location, the older legal writ will appear, and law enforcement will be obliged to take action. In cases where people are being taken into custody for a crime and a records search shows an outstanding record for another crime, a negotiation is conducted to determine how the situation should be handled.
When a capias is issued, the subject can choose to surrender to law enforcement, rather than waiting for collection by law enforcement officers. This may be viewed favorably at a later date if the person is convicted of a crime and the judge is deliberating the sentence. People who voluntarily submit for judgment may also be offered plea deals and other arrangements in return for their cooperation with law enforcement.