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Depending on the circumstances, Texas law enforcement officers may or may not need a warrant in order to effectuate an arrest. Furthermore, there are different types of warrants used in the criminal justice system. It is in your best interest to be aware of the types of warrants employed in Texas and to understand what your rights and responsibilities are associated with these warrants.

What Does an Arrest Warrant in Texas Look Like?

An arrest warrant will be issued when the complaint or one or more affidavits filed with the complaint sufficiently establish probable cause to believe that an offense has not only been committed, but that the specific defendant committed it.

Here, a judge must issue an arrest warrant to an officer who is authorized to execute it. In some cases, a State’s Attorney may request that a judge may issue a summons, rather than a warrant to an individual who is authorized to serve the summons. In addition, a judge may choose to issue more than one warrant or summons regarding the same complaint. Once a defendant has been served, but subsequently fails to appear in response to a summons, a judge may issue a warrant.

Generally, an arrest warrant must contain certain information in order for it to be considered a proper warrant. A warrant must:

  1. Contain the defendant’s name (if name is unknown, a sufficient description of the individual must be stated on the warrant);
  2. Contain a description of the offense charged in the complaint;
  3. Command that the defendant be arrested and brought without unnecessary delay before a magistrate judge; and
  4. Be signed by a judge.

A summons must be in the same form as a warrant except that a summons must require the defendant to appear before the magistrate judge at a specific time and place.

Once the arrest warrant or summons has been issued, the execution or service and return must be properly completed as well. To begin with, only a marshal or other authorized officer can execute a warrant. However, any individual authorized to serve a summons in a federal civil action may also serve a summons.

Next, a warrant may be executed (or a summons served) within the jurisdiction of the U.S. or anywhere a federal statute authorizes an arrest.

A warrant is then executed by actually arresting the defendant. Once arrested, the officer in possession of the warrant is required to show it to the defendant. If the officer does not have possession of the warrant at the time of the arrest, the officer is expected to inform the defendant of the warrant’s existence and of the offense currently being charged, and, at the defendant’s request, must present the warrant to the defendant as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, if a summons is served on an individual defendant, there is a different procedure that must be followed. Here, it must be effectuated by delivering a copy to the defendant personally, or by leaving a copy at the defendant’s residence with a person of suitable age and discretion who resides at the location and by mailing a copy to the defendant’s last known address.

Once a warrant has been executed, the officer must return the warrant to the judge who will be seeing the defendant. If a summons was delivered for service, the individual must return it on or before the return day.

Understanding Bench Warrants

While an arrest warrant is directly issued by a judge to a law enforcement officer, a bench warrant authorizes the arrest of an individual who has been held in contempt of court. This is often the case when a criminal defendant who is on bail fails to appear for a court date, or when a witness who is under subpoena does not appear for a hearing or a trial.

When the situation involves an individual who was out on bail, the court will likely set a higher bail amount for the individual or eliminate the bail altogether.

What is a Warrantless Arrest?

While many arrests are made in accordance to an arrest warrant, not all arrests require a warrant. These situations are known as warrantless arrests. Common types of warrantless arrests are:

  • When the officer has probable cause to believe that an offense has in fact been committed which violates a protective order;
  • When the officer has recovered stolen property and reasonably believes that it is the defendant who has stolen it;
  • When the officer observes the actual commission of an offense;
  • When the officer has probable cause to believe that a felony has in fact taken place and the assailant is about to escape;
  • When the officer has probable cause to believe that an assault has occurred and the victim is still in danger;
  • When the officer has probable cause to believe that the defendant has assaulted a family member;
  • When the defendant has prevented or interfered with another party attempting to place an emergency telephone call;
  • When the defendant makes a voluntary statement to the officer that gives the officer probable cause to believe the person has in fact committed a felony; and
  • When the officer finds the defendant in a “suspicious place” and, under the circumstances, show that the defendant has committed or is attempting to commit a felony.

Common Questions About Texas Warrants

When dealing with issues related to warrants and warrantless arrests in Texas, many people find that they have questions. Read some of the most common questions, with answers provided by Dallas City Hall:

  1. What happens if I missed my court date? Depending on the circumstances, you have a few options. These options include paying a fine, posting a cash bond and requesting the case be reset for trial, or hiring an attorney.
  2. If I have a warrant, will I get arrested if I come to the court in person to pay my fine? No. There are not officers waiting at city hall to arrest anyone. If you happen to see a uniformed officer, they are either bailiffs or have been called to appear in court.
  3. What is the difference between an alias warrant and a capias warrant? An alias warrant is when the defendant fails to make an appearance and a capias warrant is when the defendant has a guilty judgment and fails to follow the court order.

Get Strong Defense from The Wilder Firm in Dallas

If you have been charged with a criminal offense and need your questions answered, contact a Dallas or Collin County attorney who will help you with your case and provide you with the proper defense.

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