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Getting an Arrest Warrant

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  • Getting an Arrest Warrant

    When a detective has identified a criminal suspect to his satisfaction, how difficult is it to obtain an arrest warrant for the individual? Does an appointment need to be made in advance to see a judge, or is this something which can often be done as a walk-in? How long does the process normally take? Assume that there is physical evidence (seized contraband) that a crime has been committed and that there is a credible witness which links the suspect(s) to it.

  • #2
    A lot depends on the jurisdiction in question (your mileage may vary).

    At the first agency I went to work for 50 years ago this year (yep, I’m that ancient) when we wanted an arrest warrant, we simply went next door and had a chat with Virgil.

    Virgil was the local school bus driver. But, after driving all the kids to school each day, he became the Justice of the Peace. You just told Virgil what you had and he signed the warrant. The nice part was, as the town’s only Justice of the Peace, Virgil also heard the case when it went to trial. If he thought you were guilty enough to sign the warrant, your fate an trial was pretty much predetermined, unless you could pull a pretty big rabbit out of a hat.

    Where I’m at now, officers are expected to obtain warrants through the District Attorney’s office. This is done for a number of reasons. First, in major metro areas, there are more crimes than the courts and DAs can handle. Like throwing back undersized fish, DA’s will whittle down their caseload to a manageable size by rejecting cases they deem too petty to prosecute, or where there is a likelihood of acquittal, or the crime is deemed “victimless”, or prosecuting a particular matter goes against the District Attorney’s personal philosophy. In major metro areas, many DA's offices have a manual stating what criteria must be met for each crime (above and beyond meeting the basic elements) in order for them to accept and proceed on a case.

    Once the DA signs off on a case, the officers present it to a judge who may read some, all or none of what they have, may or may not ask questions and then may or may not sign off on the warrant. Experienced officers sometimes shop for judges, knowing which ones are hard or soft on particular crimes and who to present their warrant to.

    As an interesting note, some time back, part of the performance evaluations of Deputy District Attorneys assigned to filing cases in a nearby county was based heavily on the percentages of filings they gave that resulted in convictions. If your case was even mildly weak, it was stamped with a DA Rejection.
    Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

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    • #3
      Originally posted by L-1 View Post
      A lot depends on the jurisdiction in question (your mileage may vary).

      At the first agency I went to work for 50 years ago this year (yep, I’m that ancient) when we wanted an arrest warrant, we simply went next door and had a chat with Virgil.

      Virgil was the local school bus driver. But, after driving all the kids to school each day, he became the Justice of the Peace. You just told Virgil what you had and he signed the warrant. The nice part was, as the town’s only Justice of the Peace, Virgil also heard the case when it went to trial. If he thought you were guilty enough to sign the warrant, your fate an trial was pretty much predetermined, unless you could pull a pretty big rabbit out of a hat.

      Where I’m at now, officers are expected to obtain warrants through the District Attorney’s office. This is done for a number of reasons. First, in major metro areas, there are more crimes than the courts and DAs can handle. Like throwing back undersized fish, DA’s will whittle down their caseload to a manageable size by rejecting cases they deem too petty to prosecute, or where there is a likelihood of acquittal, or the crime is deemed “victimless”, or prosecuting a particular matter goes against the District Attorney’s personal philosophy. In major metro areas, many DA's offices have a manual stating what criteria must be met for each crime (above and beyond meeting the basic elements) in order for them to accept and proceed on a case.

      Once the DA signs off on a case, the officers present it to a judge who may read some, all or none of what they have, may or may not ask questions and then may or may not sign off on the warrant. Experienced officers sometimes shop for judges, knowing which ones are hard or soft on particular crimes and who to present their warrant to.

      As an interesting note, some time back, part of the performance evaluations of Deputy District Attorneys assigned to filing cases in a nearby county was based heavily on the percentages of filings they gave that resulted in convictions. If your case was even mildly weak, it was stamped with a DA Rejection.
      In smaller agencies the process in similar............................

      Normally there is at least a cursory review by the prosecutor's office ............although many times the officers that have done this a lot can by pass this step. The officers know what they need help or approval by the prosecutor and act appropriately . For the most part the prosecutors office here acts as an advisor to the officers rather than adversary.

      Finding a magistrate or district court judge in smaller counties can be fun..........there is always someone on call, but in my county our magistrate lives in the next county over. That means a short road trip to get the warrant signed unless she happens to be in town for a hearing already....Which is normally Wednesday. On Mondays we have a District Court judge in house.........so the officers just come up and I take them into see da judge.

      Occasionally the magistrate is out of the area ................she always arranges a backup and sends us an email as to who is covering .......THEN if an emergency comes up that road trip might be longer to get a warrant signed. The officers normally make sure anything that needs to be signed is done before she leaves town

      Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

      My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

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      • #4
        You make an appointment to see one of the prosecutors, and they will determine if you have enough for a warrant, or if they even want a warrant as opposed to a subpoena. They may also do a warrant on indictment. It really depends on the crime. They can be had in short order if that is how the prosecutor wants to go.

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        • #5
          Arrest warrants may be issued by a District Court Commissioner in Maryland. Commissioners are state court employees. Most are not lawyers, More urban counties have on duty commissioners 24/7. One writes an statement of probable cause and submits it. If PC is met, the commissioner will issue a warrant or summons.

          Frighten enough, if Joe Bagachips writes up an application for charges against his spouse or neighbor, makes some sort of sense, and appears sober, the application will also be approved.
          John from Maryland

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          • #6
            Generally speaking, what is required is an affidavit of probable cause sworn to under oath by the officer petitioning the court for the warrant. The affidavit must spell out reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal act has been committed by a specific individual, and that said acts occurred within the jurisdiction of the court receiving the petition.

            Procedural aspects may vary. In some departments the affidavit must be reviewed by a prosecutor (deputy district attorney or some other terminology) before submission to the court. In some places there will be an "on-call" judge to receive and review such petitions. In some locations such petitions are received only during business hours, or only by specific appointment. Judges tend to make up rules for their own convenience.

            Please note that "probable cause" is much different than suspicion or hearsay, requiring specific knowledge fully articulating the facts and circumstances in such a way that a "reasonable person" would conclude that a crime has been committed and that the named subject committed that specific crime. The affidavit submitted must contain all relevant details, and that document becomes part of the permanent public record of the criminal action, subject to review and attack by the defense.

            A warrant is not just a piece of paper torn off a tablet and handed out on request, and a warrant does not grant "carte blanche" in any way pertaining to the arrest or service of the warrant. The warrant is the result of a judicial proceeding subject to review and appeal.

            Comment


            • #7
              It's a pretty easy system and Detectives do it all the time.

              - You investigate and obtain enough evidence to meet the elements of the offense.
              - You write up a probably cause arrest warrant, affidavit.
              - Depending on your SOP's, you either have your department legal look it over or case review.
              - In my jurisdiction, you then go to the on call Judge for signature.
              - Warrant is good to go.
              - Arrest is made
              - Case is prepared and sent to the DA's office for prosecution.

              Process differs from city to city, state to state.

              Comment

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