Facts About Warrants


A warrant is a legal term for a document approved by a court official that authorizes law enforcement to take a specific action. Warrants are required as a safeguard against invasion of privacy.


  • There are two major types of warrants--arrest warrants, which authorize a person's arrest, and search warrants, which authorize a search by law enforcement at a particular location.

Arrest-Warrant Requirements

  • An arrest warrant can be issued if two conditions are met: There is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and there is probable cause to believe that the person being arrested committed the crime in question.

Search-Warrant Origin

  • The search warrant entered the American governmental system in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures, specifically those without a court-issued warrant based upon probable cause.

Search-Warrant Requirements

  • A search warrant is issued if law enforcement officials are able to convince court officials that they have reasonable suspicion that a crime is taking place or that evidence of a previous crime may be found at a specific location. The scope of any search is limited to the area specified on the warrant and the specific items listed on the warrant.

Search-Warrant Exceptions

  • By law, search warrants are not required at customs checkpoints or high schools, after a lawful arrest, or when an item is in plain sight.


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