A criminal warrant is a legal document that orders or authorizes a law enforcement officer to perform certain acts related to a criminal case. For example, a criminal warrant may authorize law enforcement officers to arrest a person who has been accused of a crime or search an accused person’s property. Criminal warrants may be issued before a person is aware that he has been accused of a crime or after he has been ordered to appear in court.
Typically, a judge issues a criminal warrant because there is reason to believe the person named on the warrant has committed a criminal act. A warrant provides written information about the case, including the accused person's name and the crime of which he is accused of committing. Usually, criminal warrants also include the name of the judge who issued the warrant and the date on which it was issued. Criminal warrants also detail the exact action a law enforcement officer should take. The format of the warrant and the details included on it vary depending on where the court is located.
An arrest warrant is a type of criminal warrant that instructs a law enforcement officer to arrest the person listed on the warrant. It typically states the crime the person is suspected of committing. In many jurisdictions, it must also state that there is probable cause for believing the accused person committed the crime. In some cases, arrest warrants may also list the amount of bail a judge has set in the criminal case.
A search warrant may be issued to help law enforcement officers investigate a crime. These warrants allow law enforcement officers to search a person, or his private property, for items related to a crime. They also allow law enforcement officers to seize evidence as part of the investigation. For example, a search warrant may allow officers to search a person’s car for a weapon. If found, the officers may seize it along with any other evidence they find important to the criminal investigation.
A bench warrant is another type of warrant a judge may issue in a criminal case. This type of warrant is used to take an accused person into custody for failure to do something required by the court. For example, if a person fails to show up in court when he is ordered to, a judge may issue a bench warrant, allowing law enforcement officers to arrest him and bring him before the judge.