What Is a Warrant? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:05 Definition
  • 0:45 Arrest Warrants
  • 1:09 Search Warrants
  • 1:33 Examples
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

This lesson will teach you about warrants. Initially, we'll learn what constitutes a warrant and learn what an arrest warrant and a search warrant are, including their basic differences. Then we'll review some examples of each one.


Since the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights provide certain basic freedoms, the police cannot simply go around making random arrests and performing random searches. They must use warrants. Warrants are used for two basic purposes: to arrest someone and to search a suspect's property.

In order to arrest an individual, an arrest warrant is used. In order to search one's property, a search warrant is used. Warrants help keep police procedures efficient and effective. In addition, warrants ensure that individual rights are protected by making sure that police follow procedures.

Arrest Warrants

An arrest warrant is a document signed by a judge that authorizes an arrest. It typically must be based upon probable cause that the person against whom the arrest warrant is sought committed a crime. The arrest warrant must be supported by evidence showing the probable cause, such as an affidavit. An affidavit is a sworn statement where a person states the facts of a matter.

Search Warrants

A search warrant is a document signed by a judge which authorizes police officers to look for certain items, usually based upon probable cause. Moreover, the document must indicate the specific location and time period in which the police may search. A failure to specify this information will make the warrant and anything found pursuant to the warrant invalid.


Let's look at some examples in order to get a better understanding of how warrants are used. Imagine that A robbed a grocery store and B and C were witnesses to the crime. B and C issue affidavits to D, a police officer. D presents the affidavits to a judge, who issues an arrest warrant for A. D locates A and arrests A with the arrest warrant. The arrest is valid.

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