Is a Search Warrant and an Arrest Warrant the Same in California?

Ever find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed by the number of terms that are used on a regular basis in the criminal justice system? We understand, it can get pretty tricky. Some people even spend their whole lives studying these terms so they can work in law. 

So, what does a California warrant search bring up? Also, what is the difference between an arrest warrant and a search warrant? All very confusing questions, but don’t worry. Together we’ll figure this out and by the time we’re done here, you might as well go apply to take the bar exam. 

Just kidding, you won’t have nearly enough legal knowledge to pass the law exam after reading this article. Many people consider the bar to be the most difficult test they take in their entire lives. What you will be able to do is have a coherent conversation with your friends and family members about warrants.

While those conversations aren’t always quite as thrilling as being eligible for a six-figure income, being able to bond with your loved ones is something that’s arguably more important than having a six-figure income. Or maybe not, that’s not what we’re here to figure out. 

We’re here to talk about warrants and talk about warrants we shall. What is a warrant, what’s the difference between an arrest warrant and a search warrant, and how does one go about finding warrant information if they want to? Let’s find out!

An Important Diversion: The 4th Amendment 

Before we get too deep into things, it’s important that we explain a pretty basic legal concept. Have you ever heard of the Consitution of the United States of America? Of course you have, that’s a bit of a silly question, isn’t it?

Well, everyone knows about your basic rights. The right to free speech, the right to bear arms, and the very important right to refuse quartering soldiers against your will. Those are actually the first three amendments in order, most people don’t really get past the second one and that’s ok. 

The amendment that is the most important to our conversation today is going to the be 4th amendment. This amendment protects all United States citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures of their person and their property. Without this amendment, the topics of this article would be kind of irrelevant. 

This amendment was specifically added to protect innocent people from law enforcement with unchecked power. Things are a little more complicated than just that today, but we definitely don’t have time for a second diversion in this article. Just remember the fourth amendment for the rest of this article, there will be a test at the end. 

What is an Arrest Warrant?

Let’s begin with arrest warrants because those are probably the ones that you have the most familiarity with, unless you happen to watch different cop dramas than we do. In any case, this seems like a pretty good kind of warrant to explain first.

An arrest warrant allows for the seizure of a person, granted that there are sufficient legal grounds to do so. There are a lot of ways that an arrest warrant might be issued, and not all of them are what you might expect. Let’s take a look at just a few:

  • Eye witness testimony.
    • If someone goes to a judge and says that they saw Peter Monroe commit a crime, the judge or magistrate may issue a warrant.
  • Physical evidence.
    • This kind of evidence includes the kinds of things that you can hold in your hands. Maybe a book, wallet, piece of mail, jacket, etc were left behind by the perp. Maybe DNA evidence was found on the scene of the crime. 
  • Digital evidence.
    • In the world of the future, we don’t just need physical evidence to get someone locked up. We have digital cameras and all sorts of recording equipment all over the place. 

If any of those things appear in front of a judge, especially when combined together, a warrant for arrest can be issued for the suspect. Now, keep in mind, just because someone is arrested that doesn’t mean that they committed the crime. 

Capias Warrants | Berkeley County Criminal Defense Attorneys

What is a Search Warrant?

Alright, since we already covered arrest warrants, let’s take a look at search warrants. Both are warrants, but they are not the same kind of warrants and they sometimes require different types of evidence in order to be issued.

Now, search warrants aren’t always needed. There are a few cases when a police officer can search your car without a warrant, here are a few examples:

  • If something is in plain view and the cop sees it.
    • If you get pulled over and there’s a brick of illegal drugs in your passenger seat, the police officer is not legally obligated to act like they don’t see it.
  • If you give the police officer consent to search your car.
    • Lawyers nationwide call this a “bad move” but you can, in fact, give a police officer permission to search your property or person and they would not need a warrant to do so.
  • If someone in your party is on parole.
    • Parolees are not protected by the 4th amendment, so they and their parties can be searched by the police without a warrant. This is doubly true if you’re in a car.
  • Probable cause.
    • Probable cause is one of the trickier ways that police get around the need for a warrant, but if the cop has a reasonable suspicion that there is contraband in your vehicle or home, they can search without a warrant.

So, when would a search warrant be issued? In most cases, when you refuse to consent to a police officer searching you. That being said, the police officer has to have a good enough reason, or the authorizing party will flatly reject their request. That’s the whole reason why there are only a handful of people that are allowed to authorize search warrants.

Any evidence that is gathered through illegal means, or without a warrant or probable cause, is not able to be used in court. That means that police have to be on top of their game when it comes to making sure that the evidence that they collect is legal. 

It doesn’t matter if they find a body in the trunk of someone’s car, if it was found without going through the proper channels, that evidence cannot be used in court. This might seem crazy, but think of how many innocent people it protects every day.

Finding Warrants: A Quick How-To

Now that we all fully understand the difference between a search warrant and an arrest warrant, or at least hopefully we all do, let’s look at how to find warrant information. Now, to the best of our knowledge, there is no way to find search warrants.

That being said, if you know what you’re doing there are a few ways to go about getting arrest warrant infromation without ever leaving the comfort of your home! We’re going to be taking a look at a few things that you can try, at least one of them is going to get you what you’re looking for. 

The first method is easy. Try to go on the sheriff’s department’s website and search for warrants there. Some counties are great about keeping these databases up and running with the most accurate information possible, some even updating multiple times a day.

Other counties are less great about this. If you live in one of those counties, you could always try calling. Not every county is at liberty to disclose that information to someone calling in, but the counties that are allowed to will be happy to help you get that info.

There are services that are specifically around to help you find this kind of information. They’re commonly referred to as warrant search services or personal background check services. These services are able to conduct nationwide searches in a matter of seconds, making them very powerful for warrant searches of all types. 

It doesn’t matter if you need warrant information in California, New York, or even North Virginia. You can get the information any time of the day without having to worry about it, and that’s great if you can’t get the information directly from the resources provided by law enforcement. 

Know the Difference

Our legal system is pretty complicated and confusing. Understanding basic legal concepts can help you maneuver it a lot easier than you’d be able to otherwise. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources available to help you get any and all information you’re looking for. 

The internet makes both figuring out what the right words to use are and finding the actual information that you want a walk in the park. Thanks to the internet, you can even find someone’s warrant information at 3:14 AM on a Thursday morning without ever having to leave your home.

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