Definition of arrest warrant
arrest warrant (plural arrest warrants)
- (law) An official document that authorizes law-enforcement officials to arrest, and bring to court a named person
An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by and on behalf of the state, which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual.
In England & Wales, arrest warrants are issued by justices of the peace (magistrates court). Warrants can also be issued by police officers of Superintendent rank or above outside of court operating hours, however this is treated as a last resort option.
Warrants are typically issued by courts but can also be issued by one of the chambers of the United States Congress or other legislatures (via the call of the house motion) and other political entities.
In the United States, an arrest warrant must be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit showing probable cause that:
- a specific crime has been committed, and
- the person(s) named in the warrant committed said crime.
Hence, the form and content of an arrest warrant may be similar to the following:
Municipal Court, Springfield Judicial District
To any peace officer of the realm: Complaint upon oath having been brought before me that the crime of larceny has been committed, and accusing Nelson Muntz of the same, you are hereby commanded forthwith to arrest and bring that person before me. Bail may be admitted in the sum of $1,000.00. Dated: 15 May 1997. /s/ Judge Snyder, presiding judge.
In most jurisdictions, an arrest warrant is required for misdemeanors that do not occur within view of a police officer. However, as long as police have the necessary probable cause, a warrant is usually not needed to arrest someone suspected of a felony.
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