Criminal Defense Attorney Serving all of Los Angeles

Warrants & How They Affect You

If you are under investigation for a crime, a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney may be able to prevent an arrest warrant from being issued. Pre-filing intervention may convince the District Attorney’s Office to not file charges against you at all. Even if charges are filed, your attorney can bring you directly to the court and attempt to lower your bail or obtain OR release. This can prevent an embarrassing arrest by law enforcement in front of your family and friend. If you attempt to turn yourself in without the help of an experienced attorney, you run a high risk of being taken directly to jail.

Moaddel Law Firm is extremely well-versed in criminal law and courtroom procedures, meaning if you are under investigation, even if you have not been formally charged, you need to speak with us to begin preparing your defense. In our many years of serving clients we have been able to successfully challenge a wide-range of accusations and dispute the legitimacy of warrants. Trust us to stand beside you no matter what you are thought to have done.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Contesting All Types of Warrants

There are three main types of warrant: arrest warrants, bench warrants, and search warrants.

Arrest Warrants

Arrest warrants are issued by a court after a law enforcement officer presents evidence to establish probable cause that a crime was committed and that you committed the crime (or after a grand jury has issued an indictment against you). [1]

A valid arrest warrant must contain the name of the person to be arrested, the crime that was allegedly committed, the time the warrant was issued, the city or county that issued the warrant, the judge’s title and signature, and the name of the court.[2]

How are Arrest Warrants Executed?

California law limits the ways in which officers can execute an arrest warrant. Police execute warrants at locations where they believe the suspect is most likely to be, which is usually the home or workplace.   To forcefully enter your home, police must have probable cause to believe you are inside.[3]

Officers need not have an actual copy of the warrant, so long as they can prove they were legally informed of the warrant, such as by running an individual’s driver’s license after a traffic stop.[4] However, they must provide a copy of the warrant when it is reasonably possible.

Arrest warrants must be executed within a reasonable amount of time. If not, the charges may be dismissed for violation of the defendant’s speedy trial rights.

Arrest warrants may be executed at any time if the offense is a felony.[5] Generally, misdemeanor arrest warrants must be executed between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.[6] You then must be taken before a judge within 48 hours, excluding Sundays and holidays.[7] 

Bench Warrants

A bench warrant is issued if you fail to appear at court, fail to pay court-ordered fines,[8] or fail to obey a court order. A bench warrant authorizes law enforcement to arrest you and bring you directly to court.

Clearing a bench warrant is called “recalling the warrant.” In order to recall the warrant, you will need to appear in court. If you failed to appear or failed to pay fines from a misdemeanor case, your attorney can usually appear for you to recall the warrant. However, if you have multiple failures to appear, the court will likely require you to personally appear. If you failed to obey a court order from a felony case, you must be present to clear the warrant.

The judge will then decide whether to release you with a warning or remand you to custody. The judge will consider the circumstances of the warrant, whether you’re a flight risk, and your criminal history.

Like arrest warrants, bench warrants must be served within a reasonable time and use the same rules as arrest warrants.[9] 

Search Warrants

Unlike arrest and bench warrants, a search warrant does not authorize law enforcement to arrest you. A search warrant authorizes law enforcement to search a specified location for specified items. In some cases, you may not be aware a search warrant was issued, for instance, if the warrant was for records held by a third party, such as a bank. In other cases, you may learn of the warrant when law enforcement arrives to search your home or vehicle.

A judge may only issue a search warrant when there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that evidence of that crime is likely to be found in the place for which the warrant is issued.[10] However, police often provide misleading, or one-sided, information to the judge in their affidavits to support their search warrants.

“Probable cause” is a legal term of art. In law, probable cause means a reasonable belief. It does not mean the officer must be certain, but he must have more than a suspicion or hunch.

Warrants must be Executed Properly

California law places limits on how search warrants can be executed. The warrant must describe the location to be searched and the property to be seized with reasonable particularity.[11] A warrant that authorizes the seizure of “all evidence” or “stolen property” does not have reasonable particularity.

A search warrant must be executed within ten days of issuance. If more than ten days have elapsed, the warrant expires and police must obtain a new warrant.[12] Warrants must be served between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.; however, a judge can authorize service at any time of day if there is good cause to do so.[13] The officers must leave a receipt for any items seized, and the items must be stored in police custody until they are used in court or released.[14]

When executing a search warrant, officers must follow the “knock and announce” rule.[15] Officers must knock on the door, announce that they are law enforcement, and give the person inside time to open the door. Before entering the home, officers must advise the occupants that they are executing a search warrant. If the person inside refuses to allow the officers inside, or if no one is home, officers can force entry into the home in order to execute the search warrant.[16] If officers believe there are exigent circumstances, such as destruction of evidence or harm to officers, they may waive the knock and announce requirements.[17]

Your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can make several different motions to quash the search warrant. A Franks hearing challenges the warrant based on false information in the affidavit. A Luttenberger hearing challenges the warrant based on an informant providing false information, which the police used in their warrant affidavit. A Hobbs hearing is used when the warrant affidavit is sealed, and asks the court to reveal the identity of the police informant.

Disputing Search Warrants—Penal Code § 1538.5 motions

The most common challenge to an illegal search warrant is a Penal Code § 1538.5 motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of the illegal search. Your attorney may challenge the search warrant if there were insufficient facts to establish probable cause, there was a legal defect with the warrant, the seized property or searched location was not described with particularity, or the search was illegally executed. If the court agrees, the prosecution will not be able to use any of the seized evidence at trial. These motions can be used by a skilled attorney as leverage to get your case dismissed, or your charged reduced.

Don’t wait to challenge the grounds of the warrant. Speak with the Moaddel Law Firm and get the legal counsel you need to protect your freedom.

We are here to help you—call us at (877) 375-8188!

[1] Penal Code § 817.

[2] Penal Code § 815.

[3] Penal Code § 844.

[4] Penal Code § 842.

[5] Penal Code § 840.

[6] Penal Code § 840, with exceptions for arrests in public places, arrests made when the person is already in custody, and arrests made pursuant to a warrant that specifically authorizes execution at any time,

[7] Penal Code § 825.

[8] Under California law, bench warrants may only be issued for willful failure to pay fines; you cannot be arrested for failing to pay a fine if you lack the financial ability to pay, so long as you follow all other court orders. Penal Code § 1320.5.

[9] Penal Code § 978.5(b).

[10] Penal Code § 1525.

[11] Penal Code § 1525; U.S. Const. Amendment IV; see also Marron v. United States (1927) 275 U.S. 192, 196.

[12] Penal Code § 1534.

[13] Penal Code § 1533.

[14] Penal Code §§ 1533, 1535

[15] People v. Ramsey (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 671, 679; Penal Code § 1531.

[16] Hart v. Superior Court (1971) 21 Cal.App.3d 496, 504; Penal Code § 1531.

[17] People v. Murphy (2005) 37 Cal.4th 490, 497.