When it comes to being arrested, law enforcement officers can arrest persons for misdemeanors committed in their presence (with a few exceptions including DUI arrests at an accident scene), for misdemeanors when a citizen directs an officer to execute a “citizen’s arrest,” and for a felony, even if not committed in an officer’s presence, if the officer has “probable cause.”
However, arrest warrants can also result in a citizen being arrested based on an order of a judge. There are many types of arrest warrants.
The first type of arrest warrant can be issued when a prosecutor (District Attorney) files a criminal complaint alleging that someone committed a felony. California Penal Code section 813 authorizes the issuance of an arrest warrant and reads as follows:
813. (a) When a complaint is filed with a magistrate charging a felony originally triable in the superior court of the county in which he or she sits, if, and only if, the magistrate is satisfied from the complaint that the offense complained of has been committed and that there is reasonable ground to believe that the defendant has committed it, the magistrate shall issue a warrant for the arrest of the defendant, except that, upon the request of the prosecutor, a summons instead of an arrest warrant shall be issued.
Thus, if a prosecutor receives a request, usually by a law enforcement officer armed with a police report, to file felony charges and does so, a judge will generally issue arrest warrant unless the prosecutor requests that a summons to come to court is issued.
A second type of arrest warrant occurs if an indictment is issued by a grand jury and the person indicted fails to appear at arraignment, bail can be set and a warrant issued under Penal Code section 945 and 979-984.
A third type of arrest warrant can occur any time a person has failed to appear after receiving a notice to appear in Court by way of a summons, citation, or on an order of a Court to return, a “bench warrant” can be issued by a judge or magistrate.
Fourth, a judge can issue a bench warrant when he has probable cause to believe that a person on some sort of formal supervision, such as probation or other supervised release, a court can issue a warrant of arrest under California Penal Code section 1203.2
Fifth, at the request of a peace officer, a court may authorize a residential arrest by issuing a so-called Ramey warrant under People v. Ramey (1976) 16 Cal.3d 263, which has been codified in California Penal Code section 817. A Ramey warrant authorizes law enforcement to enter the prospective arrestee’s home to make the arrest without the need of a search warrant to force entry into a home. Sometimes a judge will sign a Ramey warrant in conjunction with a search warrant.
If you believe a warrant may exist for your arrest, it is best to find out the easy way before learning the hard way-- being arrested at the worst possible time. Oftentimes if a warrant is discovered prior to an arrest, bail can be posted and a court date set without the necessity of being arrested and booked. Or in some instances, simply walking in with a lawyer will result in the Court setting aside the warrant and setting a new court date without having to post bail.
Long Beach criminal lawyer Matthew Kaestner is happy to answer any question about warrants or other matters relating to criminal law. He has over 35 years of experience handling criminal cases from misdemeanor charges to murder. He can be reached directly at 562-437-0200.