How Long Does it Take to Get a Warrant?

How Long Does it Take to Get a Warrant?

What is a warrant?

A warrant is a legal document issued by a court that authorizes law enforcement officials to carry out a specific action. A warrant can be issued for various reasons, including to search a person’s property, seize evidence, or arrest a suspect. The goal of a warrant is to ensure that law enforcement officials act within the boundaries of the law and do not act in violation of individual rights.

There are two types of warrants: arrest warrants and search warrants. An arrest warrant allows law enforcement officials to take a suspect into custody, while a search warrant gives law enforcement officials the authority to search a person’s property. In both cases, law enforcement officials must comply with the scope of the warrant and ensure they have sufficient evidence to support the warrant’s issuance.

Warrants are typically issued by a judge or magistrate and are supported by a sworn affidavit that describes the evidence supporting the need for the warrant. The affidavit must meet a minimum standard of probable cause, which means that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the evidence sought will be found in the location to be searched or the person to be arrested.

Once a warrant has been issued, law enforcement officials may execute the warrant at any time, day or night, unless it specifies otherwise. After the warrant has been executed, law enforcement officials must report back to the court and file a return, detailing what was seized or what actions were taken.

Types of warrants

There are three main types of warrants issued by a court: arrest warrants, search warrants, and bench warrants. Each type of warrant serves a different purpose and has different legal requirements.

Arrest warrants are issued when a law enforcement agency has probable cause to believe that someone has committed a crime. The warrant allows the police to arrest the person named in the warrant. To obtain an arrest warrant, law enforcement must present evidence to a judge or magistrate that shows probable cause that the accused committed a crime. If the magistrate or judge determines probable cause exists, they will issue the warrant.

Search warrants are issued when law enforcement wants to search a specific location for evidence related to a crime. Before issuing a search warrant, a judge or magistrate must be presented evidence that demonstrates probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime can be found at the location in question. Once the search warrant is issued, law enforcement can search the location described in the warrant and seize any evidence they find that is related to the crime.

Bench warrants are issued when someone fails to appear for a scheduled court hearing. The bench warrant authorizes law enforcement to arrest the person named in the warrant and bring them before the court. Bench warrants are typically issued after a court has sent a notice to the defendant to appear in court on a specific date and time. If the defendant fails to appear, the judge may issue a bench warrant.

How long does it take to get a warrant?

The process of obtaining a warrant can vary depending on the type of warrant and the jurisdiction. In some cases, like with bench warrants, the court can issue the warrant immediately after a defendant fails to appear for a scheduled court hearing. For arrest warrants and search warrants, the process can take longer.

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To obtain an arrest warrant or search warrant, law enforcement or the prosecutor must present evidence to a judge or magistrate that demonstrates probable cause. This process can take some time, as the judge or magistrate must carefully review the evidence presented and determine if probable cause exists. In some cases, law enforcement may need to conduct additional investigations to gather the evidence needed to support the warrant.

Overall, the time it takes to get a warrant can range from a few hours to several days or weeks. The complexity of the case and the volume of other cases being handled by the court can affect the speed at which a warrant is issued.


Warrants are an important tool used by law enforcement and the court system to ensure justice is served. The different types of warrants each serve a unique purpose, from arresting suspects to searching for evidence and ensuring defendants appear in court. While the time it takes to get a warrant can vary, the process is designed to ensure that probable cause is established before an arrest or search is conducted. If you have questions about a specific warrant or legal matter, it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney.

Reasons for obtaining a warrant

Obtaining a warrant is a critical step in the criminal justice process. It’s a legal paper allowing a law enforcement officer to search a specific location or arrest someone, based on a suspicion or cause that a crime has been committed. The warrant serves as a legal authority for officers to act and is granted by a judicial representative like a judge or magistrate.

There are several reasons and circumstances that can lead to the issuance of a warrant:

Probable cause

One reason for obtaining a warrant is the existence of probable cause. Probable cause means that there is a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed. Law enforcement officers must have an adequate reason or evidence to suspect someone of wrongdoing before they can obtain a warrant. In most cases, probable cause requires clear evidence or observations indicating an individual’s involvement in criminal activity such as photographs, videos, eye witness accounts, or fingerprints.

For example, if a police officer suspects an individual of drug trafficking, they may gather evidence such as drug paraphernalia, images of the person or persons selling or distributing drugs, or witness testimonials. With this evidence, the police could show probable cause to a judge and seek a warrant to search the suspected individual’s house or car for drugs.

Reasonable suspicion

Another reason to obtain a warrant is if there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Reasonable suspicion is a more relaxed standard than probable cause. The law enforcement officer must have more than a mere hunch or suspicion that a crime has been committed, but less than the clear and convincing evidence required for probable cause. By law, the police can’t obtain a warrant based on a hunch, rumor, or speculation. They need to have evidence to support their suspicion.

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For instance, if a police officer observes an individual driving erratically, they may conduct a traffic stop. If during the stop, the officer detects the smell of alcohol, observes slurred speech, or notices open beer cans in the vehicle, they may have reasonable suspicion to believe that the person was driving under the influence of alcohol. They could use this information to obtain a warrant to perform a blood-alcohol content test, which could further hurt the individual’s case.

Emergency circumstances

There are also times when police officers need to enter premises without a warrant due to emergency circumstances. Emergency circumstances involve an immediate threat to the public’s safety, property, or the safety of law enforcement officers. For example, if police are pursuing a fleeing suspect who enters a private residence, officers can enter the property without a warrant to apprehend the suspect to avoid allowing him or her into a more dangerous situation.

Another example of an emergency circumstance would be when an officer approaches a known drug dealer in a dark alley. The drug dealer attempts to pull out a gun on the officer, and the police officer acts quickly by neutralizing him before he can harm the officer. In those circumstances, the officer would not be required to have a warrant as the situation was grave, and waiting to obtain a warrant could pose a risk on the officers’ life.

In summary, there are distinct reasons and scenarios that result in the issuance of a warrant. There are several legal standards, including probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and emergency circumstances that allow law enforcement to obtain a warrant. While the police have broad authority to arrest or search, the Constitution requires that they do so only with proper authority, balancing individual’s rights and accountability with public safety.

Factors affecting the length of time it takes to get a warrant

Getting a warrant can be a complex and time-consuming process. The amount of time it takes to get a warrant largely depends on the type of warrant and the circumstances surrounding the case. Here are some factors that can influence how long it takes to get a warrant:

  • The type of warrant: There are different types of warrants, including search warrants, arrest warrants, and bench warrants. The type of warrant you need will determine the length of time it takes to obtain one.
  • The circumstances of the case: The circumstances surrounding the case can also impact how long it takes to get a warrant. For example, if a case involves a serious crime or a threat to public safety, it may be expedited.
  • The availability of a judge or magistrate: A judge or magistrate must issue a warrant, so their availability can affect the time it takes to obtain one.
  • The quality of the warrant application: The application for a warrant must meet certain legal requirements, including probable cause. If the application is incomplete or inaccurate, it may take longer to obtain a warrant.

The average wait time for different types of warrants

While there is no standard timeframe for obtaining a warrant, some types of warrants are generally processed more quickly than others. Here are some average wait times for different types of warrants:

  • Search warrants: In general, search warrants take longer to obtain than other types of warrants. The average wait time for a search warrant is around 48 hours.
  • Arrest warrants: Arrest warrants are generally processed faster than search warrants. The average wait time for an arrest warrant is around 24-48 hours.
  • Bench warrants: Bench warrants are issued when someone fails to appear in court. They can be processed quickly, typically within 24 hours.
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It’s important to keep in mind that these are only average wait times and that the actual length of time it takes to obtain a warrant will vary depending on the circumstances of the case.


Obtaining a warrant can be a time-consuming process that requires careful attention to legal requirements and procedures. The type of warrant, the circumstances of the case, and the quality of the warrant application can all impact the length of time it takes to obtain a warrant. While there are average wait times for different types of warrants, it’s important to remember that the actual length of time can vary widely depending on the specifics of each case. If you need to obtain a warrant, it may be helpful to consult an experienced legal professional to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.

What happens after a warrant is issued?

When a warrant is issued, the next step is for law enforcement to execute the warrant. This means they will actively search for and arrest the individual named in the warrant. Depending on the type of warrant, it can take anywhere from a few hours to several months before the warrant is executed.

If a law enforcement officer believes the individual named in the warrant is in a certain location, they may choose to conduct a search of that location without a warrant. This is known as a “search incident to arrest” and is legal if the officer has probable cause to believe the individual is present and the search is necessary to ensure officer safety or prevent the destruction of evidence. However, if the search incident to arrest turns up evidence of other crimes, that evidence can also be used against the individual in court.

Once the individual is arrested, they will be taken into custody and informed of their rights, including the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent. They will then be taken to court, where a judge will inform them of the charges against them and set a date for a preliminary hearing or arraignment.

If the individual named in the warrant fails to appear in court or is not found, the warrant will remain active indefinitely. This means they can still be arrested if they are found at a later date.

It’s important to note that being named in a warrant can have serious legal consequences, including fines, community service, probation, or even jail time. If you are named in a warrant or believe there may be a warrant out for your arrest, it’s important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights and minimize the impact on your life.

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