What is an Arrest Warrant? - Definition, Types & Examples Video

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  • 0:04 Opening Example
  • 0:31 Probable Cause
  • 1:26 Arrest Warrant
  • 2:32 Types of Arrest Warrants
  • 3:25 Arresting Without a Warrant
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kenneth Poortvliet
When police have sufficient evidence that someone has committed a crime, they need the authority to make the arrest. In this lesson, we will learn what an arrest warrant is, how it's obtained and about the different types of arrest warrants.

Opening Example

The wannabe mobster, Bad Bart, quickly shut the blinds as a patrol car drove by. He felt a sense of relief, then suddenly the police rushed in, and within moments, he was on his face with his hands cuffed behind him. After they finished reading him his rights, an officer came from down the hall with his book bag. Bad Bart knew they found the cash and the fake sports tickets. Bad Bart asked to see a warrant, but they never showed him one. Does that seem right? Can they arrest you in your home without a warrant?

Probable Cause

Before an arrest is made, the arresting officer needs to show that probable cause exists. Probable cause is a legal standard that requires specific circumstances be present before police can arrest or search a suspect, and it exists when an officer reasonably believes, under the circumstances, that a crime has been committed and the suspect did it. To determine if probable cause exists, the court uses the reasonable person standard, which asks what a reasonable person (or in this case an officer) would believe under the same set of circumstances.

For example, Detective Crock is sitting in a cafe observing a known drug area. Dealer Dan is on the corner pacing back and forth, occasionally looking at his phone. Crock has suspicions, but doesn't have probable cause to make an arrest. Tattletale Tubbs comes in and tells Crock about the drugs he bought off the man not 10 minutes ago. Now Crock has probable cause because any reasonable officer would believe that the man on the corner is selling drugs.

Arrest Warrant

The Fourth Amendment, which protects people against unreasonable searches and seizure, says ''no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'' This means before the police can get an arrest warrant, which is an order to seize (arrest) a person, they must convince the issuing judge that they have probable cause. So does Crock need to get a warrant now that he has probable cause?

No, he doesn't. This is based on the concept of the expectation of privacy, meaning the reasonable amount of privacy a person expects in an area. It is the lowest for walking out in public and the highest in the home. The drug dealer has very little expectation of privacy walking out in public, so Crock can just walk up to him and arrest him. But let's say the dealer left and got in his car. Crock can take him out of his car and arrest him. A person has more privacy expectation in his car, but it's still out in public, so no warrant is required. However, if Dealer Dan happened to live nearby and ran into his house, then Crock would need to get a warrant because a person has a high expectation of privacy in his home.

Types of Arrest Warrants

There are several different types of arrest warrants, and each is used under different circumstances. They are:

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