GET PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO HELP CHALLENGE SEARCH AND ARREST WARRANTS IN YOUR CASE
Many criminal cases involve warrants – either a search warrant or an arrest warrant. Here’s what people in the Tampa Bay area need to know about both kinds of warrants.
IS A WARRANT REQUIRED FOR AN ARREST?
Florida law enforcement officers can take a suspect into custody without an arrest warrant if that suspect commits a crime that an officer directly observes. Driving under the influence arrests, for instance, are warrantless arrests.
But if someone is only suspected of perpetrating a crime, and when law enforcement officials and prosecutors have “reasonable cause” for that suspicion, those officials will usually ask a judge to issue an arrest warrant.
WHAT ARE THE LEADING REASONS FOR ARREST WARRANTS?
An arrest warrant authorizes the police to arrest a person who is suspected of committing a crime. Arrest warrants in Florida are frequently issued for these reasons:
- failure to make a scheduled court appearance
- a felony charge
- a violation of probation
Failure to appear (or FTA) is a leading reason for arrest warrants in Florida. If someone is cited for a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, rather than placing the suspect under arrest, a police officer may give the suspect a “Notice to Appear” (NTA).
If the suspect is arrested, the booking officer may give the suspect a Notice to Appear if the suspect has ties to the community and does not appear to pose any danger to the general public. After a Notice to Appear is issued, the failure to appear immediately triggers an arrest warrant.
WHAT IS REQUIRED WHEN AN ARREST WARRANT IS ISSUED?
In other situations, a suspect may not know that a judge has issued an arrest warrant. In Florida, felony arrest warrants are usually sealed – kept from the public – so that suspects don’t flee the state or evade arrest in some other way. Florida law requires arrest warrants to include:
- the date that the warrant is issued
- the county where the warrant is issued
- the name of the individual charged in the warrant
- the charge or charges against that individual
- the order to the police to arrest the individual
- the bail amount if the offense is bailable
- the judge’s signature
If the charge is not bailable, your defense attorney – in some cases – may be able to schedule a bond hearing and persuade a judge to allow you to post bail.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER AN ARREST WARRANT IS ISSUED?
To learn if there is a warrant for your arrest, you should be prepared to turn yourself in. It’s your only practical option. You may be able to avoid the arrest procedure and appear directly in court – accompanied by your lawyer – although some judges insist on a formal arrest first.
An arrest is the only thing that an arrest warrant authorizes. If a search is conducted, police officers must have a search warrant or the consent of the resident or property owner – with very few exceptions.
Arresting officers may search your “person” (your body, clothing, shoes, and pockets) to protect themselves while making an arrest, but that right does not include searching your home, vehicle, or workplace. If you are arrested in your vehicle, officers can search the vehicle. Officers can seize the vehicle since it is a place you occupied and conduct an inventory search. Tell your defense lawyer if you believe that an illegal search was conducted.
WHAT IS REQUIRED WHEN A SEARCH WARRANT IS ISSUED?
Florida’s Constitution establishes the rules for search warrants. Search warrants must specifically describe the evidence being sought, the nature of that evidence, and the location or locations to be searched. A precise, detailed description of any items to be seized must be included.
The word “curtilage” in a search warrant may include a yard, patio, garden, driveway, or any parts of a property outside of the main structure. A motor vehicle parked on the property may also be considered part of the curtilage.
Additionally, a search warrant must include a provision for the resident or property owner to receive a written inventory of any items that are seized.
HOW DO DEFENSE LAWYERS DEAL WITH WARRANTS?
A Tampa criminal defense attorney can review both arrest and search warrants to ensure that they meet the law’s requirements. Some warrants have obvious problems.
When that happens, your defense lawyer can challenge the warrant by filing a motion which asserts that the warrant is defective and that the evidence against you should be suppressed or the charge or charges against you should be entirely dismissed.
Tampa criminal defense attorney Patrick B. Courtney has more than 24 years of legal experience. He’s worked as a prosecutor, so he knows what makes a warrant valid or invalid. He protects his clients’ rights and offers an aggressive, effective defense in every case.
Pat Courtney represents defendants who face criminal charges in Polk, Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsborough, Sarasota, and Pasco counties. Learn more by calling his law offices at (813) 967-2000 or by using the brief contact form on this website.