We receive a lot of phone calls from people who have questions about ”warrants.”
Many of the people we help are confused because there are many different
types of warrants.
Five different types of warrants that people ask us about often are:
- Arrest Warrants
- Bench Warrants
- Traffic Warrants
- Scofflaw Warrants
- Search Warrants, and
- Death Warrants
arrest warrant is used to temporarily hold someone in custody when they are accused of
committing a crime. An arrest warrant is issued after the law enforcement authorities are
able to show a judge or magistrate that there is “probable cause”
to believe that the person named in the warrant committed the crime charged.
The warrant must charge a specific offense — it cannot simply be
a broad accusation of undefined criminal conduct. Probable cause is defined
as specific and articulable facts or information that would cause a reasonable
person to believe that a specific crime was committed
and that the person named in the warrant probably committed that crime.
bench warrant is issued after someone has already been arrested and failed to appear
for court. To issue this type of warrant, the government must prove that
the person actually knew about the court date. This is usually done by
providing a subpoena that was signed by the person. The process of removing
a bench warrant in Philadelphia has been dramatically changed over the
Please see our blog posted on May 6, 2012 for a discussion of those changes.
traffic warrant is issued for someone who has failed to pay traffic tickets. Traffic warrants
are often called
scofflaw warrants. Failure to pay traffic tickets may seem like a minor issue to most people,
but local governments and authorities take it very seriously because of
the amount of revenue it provides to them. In difficult economic times
revenues from tickets has taken on a much greater importance. In Philadelphia,
warrant officers have conducted overnights sweeps of those accused of
failing to pay multiple tickets.
search warrant is signed by a judge or magistrate and permits law enforcement authorities
to search a person, a place or private property such as files, computers,
bank records, or cell phone information. Police must show the judge that
probable cause exists before a search warrant is issued. This means that
the police must provide specific and articulable facts that would cause
a reaonable person to believe that a crime has been (or will be) committed
and that evidence of the crime is likely to be found at the place to be searched.
Search warrants are unconstitutional if they are not based upon probable
cause, or if they do not describe with particularity the place to be searched
or what evidence is being sought. A violation of constitutional rights
can cause evidence to be suppressed or charges to be dismissed.
In addition there are special rules regarding how, and when, police conduct
a search authorized by a search warrant. If the police violate these rules,
evidence can be suppressed even if the search warrants did not violate
any constitutional rights.
A death warrant is also sometimes referred to as an execution warrant.
This type of warrant is an official order for the execution of a prisoner
on death row. While our attorneys have handled capital cases – that
is, cases where a person found guilty of the charges can be sentenced
to lethal injection — none of our clients have ever received the
If you have a question about any aspect of criminal law or criminal procedure,
you should immediately speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney
so that you can protect your rights and the rights of those you care about.
Don't try to handle a complicated situation without professional help.
You can ask our attorneys questions about your case in person, for free,
and with no obligation.
Michael Parkinson ,
Timothy Tarpey , and
James Lloyd are criminal defense attorneys
and former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys with more than 40 years
experience who have handled thousands of criminal cases and litigated
hundreds of motions to suppress evidence.
Talk to an experienced attorney to learn about your rights and defend them
in Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, or Delaware Counties. Call us at (215) 352-3432.