Warrants: What’s the Difference?

There are similarities between a search warrant, an arrest warrant, and a bench warrant.  All are related to a governmental action that involves law enforcement and require authorization by a Judicial Officer before they are considered valid.


A search warrant allows the police, sheriff, or State Patrol to search a specific place for specific items.  Both the U.S. and Minnesota Constitutions prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures.  To obtain a search warrant, law enforcement requests authorization to conduct a search by submitting an application.  The Judge reviews the application to ensure that it provides a legal basis to conduct a search.  The search warrant must be very specific as to where they want to search and what they are looking for.  In other words, law enforcement can’t search a house whenever they want, they have to show that there is a valid reason for the search.


An arrest warrant allows law enforcement to look for, arrest, and detain someone.  A person must be charged with a crime before an arrest warrant can be issued by a Judge.  (In cases where it’s suspected that an individual may try to avoid arrest, the arrest warrant can be issued at the same time that a person is charged.)  An arrest warrant can be issued if a person fails to respond to the charges, violated conditions of release, or violated terms of their sentence.


A bench warrant can specify the extent that law enforcement can execute a warrant.  For example, a judge might issue a warrant with a requirement that it be body only.  In other words, the only way that the warrant can be satisfied is by detaining the person and requiring an actual in-person appearance before a Judge.  For less serious offenses, the Court might set a specific dollar amount for their warrant.  Hypothetically, if the judge were to issue a warrant with a $1,000 bail amount, the person detained could provide the money as a guarantee that they will appear in Court.  The Court can set other specific conditions of a bench warrant.  The Judge might limit the geographic scope of the warrant.  A judge might limit that a warrant can be executed to arrest a person if they are in Minnesota or the immediate surrounding states.  For more serious offenses, a Judge may issue a nationwide bench warrant that mandates arrest regardless of their location.


Knowing your rights is crucial, whether facing a search, arrest, or bench warrant. Was a search constitutional?  Were the items that were found legally seized?  Before a person can be charged with a crime, evidence that is being used must be legally obtained.  We have the skills and experience to protect you from illegal Government conduct. We here at Kohlmeyer Hagen focus on protecting your rights.  Our attorneys have decades of experience in criminal defense. If you have questions about warrants, give our office a call at 507-625-5000, or fill out the contact form below.

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