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Warrants: Search Warrants Versus Arrest Warrants

Police are known for doing two things: arresting people and searching them and their property. What gives them the right or authority to do this? Are police allowed to search or arrest anyone, anytime or anywhere? Of course not! This page will explain what you should do if you are the target of a Bexar County or City of San Antonio warrant.

Types of Warrants

There are two kinds of warrants: search warrants – which allows the police to search you or your property; and arrest warrants – which allows the police to arrest you. These types of warrants are very different. When police officers threaten to get a warrant unless you give them consent to search, or unless you agree to let them “take a look around,” they are usually talking about a search warrant. Usually, a police officer cannot arrest a person for a crime they did not witness. There are some exceptions to this, like domestic violence arrests, but usually a San Antonio Police Officer or Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy will not make an arrest unless the person saw a crime occur.

Consent and Unconstitutional Searches

Police officers dislike search warrants because they hate having to explain themselves to a judge, which is a requirement for getting a warrant. So, they are trained to get consent before they get a warrant. When a police officer makes a traffic stop, he is trained to search the vehicle if he has reason to believe there may be contraband. The easiest way for a police officer to search your vehicle is to get consent.

  • “You mind if I check around?”
  • “You mind if I have a look inside your trunk?”
  • “If you don’t have anything to hide, you won’t mind if I look around.”
  • “If you don’t let me look around, I’ll get the dog and get a warrant and things will be worse for you.”
  • Or, our favorite, “Don’t make me call CPS.”

These are all tactics police officers will use to get your consent to search your home or vehicle. The officer may search anyway, but by not consenting, you’ve given your lawyer an important argument that can be used in your defense.

If police are required to get a warrant, they must swear out an affidavit that explains to a judge the reason they believe it is more likely than not (probable cause) that contraband will be found in the vehicle. These sworn statements are sometimes hard to make, especially when an officer is only going off his “gut feeling”. It is not sufficient for an officer to state in the warrant that he wants to search because someone is too young or a member of a specific racial group. Instead, they must try something else. What almost always works is claiming that they smell marijuana. This is hard to disprove, but if an officer tells you that he smells marijuana, you should immediately deny it. Respond by stating that it is impossible because no one smokes in your car. The officer may still search your vehicle, but if you have not given consent, your attorney can argue that your Constitutional rights were violated.

It is important to remember that not consenting does not mean you resist an officer’s attempt to search your vehicle. If an officer attempts to search you, physical resistance is a crime that can be prosecuted, regardless of whether the officer finds anything. Never resist a police officer in such a situation.

Arrest Warrants

Arrest warrants are the most serious type. These can occur in two different ways. There are arrest warrants based on probable cause, and those that are issued because you failed to appear at court.

Probable Cause Arrest Warrants

If the police have what they believe to be probable cause and get a judge or magistrate to sign a warrant, they can come arrest you wherever they find you. This usually happens after an investigation. A person will know that they are under investigation if a Bexar County Sheriff or San Antonio Police Detective leaves a card at their residence. They may also contact you on your cell phone. However, they do not have to do this. Many times, police officers will get a warrant without talking to the subject of the warrant. When they do this, the person is left wondering how they received a fair investigation if the police never even attempted to get their side of the story. Still, arrest warrants are obtained in this manner. If you believe you may have been the target of an investigation in Bexar County, we will gladly do a free warrant check for you.

Failure to Appear Warrants

If you miss a court date, the judge will revoke your bond and issue a warrant for your arrest. If this occurs, the judge will sometimes remand you without bond, and you will need a lawyer to go in and speak with the judge so a bond can be set. In most cases, the judge will want the person to be in custody before the bond is set. However, a lawyer can sometimes find out what the amount of bond will be, so that you can plan with your bondsman to bond yourself out.

If you are concerned that you might be the subject of a warrant, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. We have dealt with thousands of these situations and can resolve warrants in your favor. Give us a call at (210) 361-3113 and begin getting this behind you today.