Arrest Warrant Law & Legal Definition


An arrest warrant is a judge's order to law enforcement officers to arrest and bring to jail a person charged with a crime. Before an arrest warrant is issued, the district attorney, a police officer or an alleged victim must make a sworn statement that the accused person committed a crime. It is also called a warrant of arrest.

An arrest warrant founded on probable cause gives the arresting officer the limited authority to enter a dwelling in which the suspect lives when there is reason to believe the suspect is within. Before entering a residence to execute an arrest warrant, an officer must have a reasonable belief that the suspect resides at the place to be entered and have reason to believe that the suspect is present at the time the warrant is executed. State laws vary, but generally if an arrest warrant and affidavit for arrest warrant have been filed with a court, then they must be released upon a request for public records. Information filed with a court is generally a matter of public record and may not be withheld from disclosure.

The following is an example of a state statute dealing with arrest warrants:

"Requisites of warrant

  1. It must specify the name of the person whose arrest is ordered, if it be known, if unknown, then some reasonably definite description must be given of him.
  2. It must state that the person is accused of some offense against the laws of the State, naming the offense.
  3. It must be signed by the magistrate, and his office be named in the body of the warrant, or in connection with his signature.

Magistrate may issue warrant or summons:

  • (a) A magistrate may issue a warrant of arrest or a summons:
  1. In any case in which he is by law authorized to order verbally the arrest of an offender;
  2. When any person shall make oath before the magistrate that another has committed some offense against the laws of the State; and
  3. In any case named in this Code where he is specially authorized to issue warrants of arrest.
  • (b) A summons may be issued in any case where a warrant may be issued, and shall be in the same form as the warrant except that it shall summon the defendant to appear before a magistrate at a stated time and place. The summons shall be served upon a defendant by delivering a copy to him personally, or by leaving it at his dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein or by mailing it to the defendant's last known address. If a defendant fails to appear in response to the summons a warrant shall be issued."