Monday, April 27, 2015

Write Away: W is for Warrant

Here we are in the final stretch for mystery terms in the 2015 April A-Z Blog Challenge. It is satisfying to know I’m going to complete the challenge again. And congratulations to the 1500+ other hardy souls who are also on their way to the finish line.

Warrants appear in lots of TV shows, movies and books, but they are sort of rushed and not often explained. When identified as to type of warrant or the process to get the warrant or even why a warrant is needed, little info is given because that’s not the exciting part of the story, right? But knowing the information allows you to sprinkle in accurate information and details so you do a public service by educating your readers.

In the justice system, a warrant is a document giving the police (or other body in the justice system) authority to arrest someone, search an area, or execute some other need in the justice system (like extradition or failure to appear in court).

To obtain a warrant, police submit to a judge or magistrate an under-oath written affidavit documenting facts of a probable crime. The affidavit names the person of interest. The judge/magistrate reviews the information and issues the warrant or not. If the description is too general, the warrant will not be issued. “Probable cause” requires specificity. Probable cause means that given the stated facts and circumstances a reasonable person would think the suspect guilty of the crime.

Sometimes clerical errors appear in warrants. These will not obviate the warrant and while they should be cleared up when first noticed by the suspect, sometimes the suspect does not see the warrant. Such errors are cleared up later.

The types of no-knock and knock-and-announce warrants are: arrest (bench) warrant, search warrant, civil warrant, state and federal warrants, anticipatory warrants, seizure warrants, extradition warrants, and nighttime warrants. The most common warrants are arrest and search and those are explained in some detail further down.

Anticipatory warrants are issued for execution at a specified future date. Seizure warrants are reserved for confiscation of materials or stored data. Federal warrants are issued to federal agents. State warrants are granted to or on behalf of the state. Extradition warrants ask to arrest a fugitive in another state or country and dispossessory warrants are used to evict a tenant. Nighttime warrants are for a specified evening time period.

Arrest warrants, or bench warrants, are typically issued prior to an arrest. They allow police to arrest a suspect and hold the suspect in custody until trial. An arrest warrant must include: the suspect’s name/and or specific description so the right person is being arrested, description of the crime, an order to arrest, and the judge/magistrate’s signature.

Generally speaking, police cannot break into a home to arrest someone; they must “knock-and-announce” who they are. If not let in voluntarily, the police may enter forcibly. There are exceptions to “knock-and-announce” (allowing police to enter forcibly without knocking and announcing): if there is evident danger, evidence might be destroyed, or the suspect might escape. The person being arrested can request to see the warrant.

Search warrants allow law enforcement officers to search people or private property to gather evidence of criminal wrongdoing. These warrants have to specify the person and/or property for which the warrant is sought. A sworn affidavit is required for issuance. If other incriminatory evidence is revealed during the execution of the warrant, an additional warrant can be obtained for the new evidence.

Civil warrants are generally the purview of small claims court as someone tries to recover personal property wrongfully obtained. Plaintiffs have to pay filing fees and sheriff fees to serve a civil warrant. The civil warrant must include the defendant’s name and address, claim amount, and the basis for making the request for the warrant.

When creating scenes of seeking or serving warrants, make sure you have the lingo and actions right for the kind of warrant you are serving. Don’t have an FBI guy serving a civil or dispossessory warrant!

What is Frieda going to do with Mort gone? Read on in “The List”.

When she awoke the next morning, later than normal, Frieda pulled herself out of bed feeling drugged. Maybe it was the extra wine last night sans food, maybe the night-long thrashing about, maybe the incessant sound of the damnable pounding surf. Whatever.
            She threw her exercise mat down on the floor and went into her routine, so practiced she didn’t need to count reps anymore. Her body let her know with each exercise when it was time to switch to the next. Shower. Dress in silk pants suit. Black coffee. Half a bagel with a schmear. And then back to the typewriter.
            Something niggled about her conversation with Mort the day before. He had a wrong-headed view of her. He imputed someone else’s personality to her. Who was it? It was driving her crazy.


  1. Hi there - I wasn't aware of the “knock-and-announce” rule. I suppose there are variations depending upon how severe the crime was.
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

  2. I'm hoping she learns what the niggle is before it's too late! ~Liz My blog is at: Blogger will take you to the wrong site.