How Arrest Warrants Work

Most of us are familiar with the idea of a warrant, but you may not understand the ins and outs of how arrest warrants work. You may even have an open warrant right now, which means you could be arrested at any minute, even if the warrant is years old! Knowing what to do may help you avoid being arrested or detained.

Let’s take a look at what arrest warrants are and how they work in real life.

WHAT is an arrest warrant?

An arrest warrant gives law enforcement officials the right to arrest a crime suspect.

The purpose of an arrest warrant is to bring the person suspected of committing a crime into court to be tried. In addition, a warrant helps ensure the suspect won’t continue committing the same crime or others. The warrant should also keep the individual from obstructing justice or interfering with the investigation.

WHO issues a warrant?

Typically, the arrest warrant process begins when a crime is committed out of view of a police officer. A law enforcement official or prosecutor will develop a case that provides probable cause for arresting a suspect. The case will then be presented before a judge in the court of law. If probable cause has been made, the presiding judge will grant the arrest warrant.

The stronger the evidence, the quicker a warrant will be issued.

Since issuing an arrest warrant is a serious decision, most officers and prosecutors try to present solid evidence

WHEN can you be arrested?

Once the arrest warrant process is complete, law enforcement officers can arrest the suspect named on the warrant anytime, anywhere. However, almost every city in the U.S. has thousands of warrants issued at any time, leaving officers inundated with unfulfilled warrants. This is what the term outstanding warrant refers to.

Because so many warrants may be outstanding at once, police officers typically prioritize arrests by the severity of the crime. Occasionally, law enforcement officials hold warrant round-ups, like this one, in concerted efforts to arrest offenders.

Note that if a police officer sees you committing a crime, he or she can arrest you on the spot – without an arrest warrant.

WHAT should you do if there’s a warrant against you?

If you could be a suspect in a theft, murder, rape case or other crime, there may be an outstanding warrant against you. In Hamilton County, you can search the sheriff’s office for open warrants.

Once you’ve confirmed that there IS a warrant in your name, be proactive. Read the warrant information carefully to understand when and why a judge issued the warrant. Also look to see what kind of charges, misdemeanor or felony,  you could be facing.

Next, contact a criminal defense attorney. An experienced attorney will walk you through your options and smooth the process for you. For example, the lawyer may be able to arrange for you to turn yourself in or appear in court for an arraignment, without you having to go to jail.

If you are arrested before hiring an attorney, stay calm, and remember you always have the right to remain silent. Ask to speak to a lawyer before you answer any questions.

Your criminal defense attorney will explain your rights and guide you through every step of the process.

Contact a Chattanooga Defense Lawyer

If you need help addressing an arrest warrant, contact our criminal defense lawyers at Speek, Turner & Newkirk.