Differences Between Search Warrants and Arrest Warrants

Warrants are an essential part of the justice system. Knowing the ins and outs of it will help you understand if they are legally obtained.

The warrant entails a search or acts that the police can carry out. Simply put, they give authorities legal rights. However, the search and arrest warrants are two separate things. Law enforcement isn’t legally permitted to enter premises without a search warrant. Here is how they differ.

Search Warrant

police coming to conduct a search

Police require a search warrant when they are looking for any evidence of criminal activity. The search warrant should outline the description of the evidence and where it can be found. Search warrants must have probable cause.

Law enforcement can also use a search warrant if they’re looking for a person so they can arrest them. Once it’s in their hands, they can search the suspect’s automobile, home, or storage.

Expiration Date

Search warrants are issued for a few days or a few weeks. They typically have a shorter expiration date compared to arrest warrants which are valid longer.

After the search warrant expires, law enforcement must get another one. They are also meant for one search. A police officer cannot enter your home more than once if they have a search warrant.

Issued Before Indictment

Contrary to an arrest warrant that is filed much later in the criminal case timeline, this is required early on. A warrant will be issued before the arrest or filing of charges. They don’t need to involve the grand jury either.

Search warrants are issued before an indictment even occurs. This is because the main purpose of the search warrant is to find information.

Arrest Warrant

a person who had a warrant out for her arrest taken into custody

An arrest warrant is issued to permit the arrest of a person. However, the police must have a reasonable belief that a person is engaged or will engage in illegal activity.

Even if the police don’t the identity of an individual an arrest warrant can be issued if law enforcement has a physical description of them.

Arrest Search

Once the warrant is issued, the police are required to find and detain the individual. This arrest is considered a seizure of the person.

Once the police arrest them, they can then search themselves as well. This is called an arrest search, or an “incident to a lawful arrest.”

Issued After Indictment

Unlike the search warrant that’s issued to find evidence, it’s issued later in the criminal case once an indictment is made. A formal charge is brought against an individual by the grand jury.

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