As you probably know, a warrant is a document that authorizes police officers to perform certain acts as a means of bringing justice to those who serve it. But how long does it take to get this little slip of paper? Does it come out immediately once it’s requested, or is the process a little lengthier?
If this question has been roaming in your mind, then keep reading to learn the answer and also discover what to do if the police ever come with a warrant to your house.
How Much Time Does It Take to Get a Warrant?
Typically, most warrants only take a couple of hours to get issued. However, some warrants can come out after a few months. “Why such a huge discrepancy?” you may wonder. Well, let me explain.
As you know, there are mainly three types of warrants: search warrants, bench warrants, and arrest warrants. Therefore, due to the variety of warrants, the time to get each one will considerably vary. And, when you factor in the urgency for each warrant, more discrepancies are bound to crop up.
So, let’s learn more about the different types of warrants and see how long it takes to issue and receive each one.
Timeframes for Different Warrants
Let’s start with search warrants. As its name implies, a search warrant is a piece of paper that authorizes law enforcement to search you, your house, or your car in order to find evidence of a specific crime.
As such, without a search warrant, no police officer can search your or your belongings as this will be a violation of the 4th amendment, which is there to protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures.
So, if an officer has a reasonable reason to search you, he’ll write a warrant, stating in it the specific location he wants to search as well as what sort of evidence he’ll be looking for there. Once he reviews his work, he’ll then get to a judge and try to convince him that this warrant is absolutely necessary to solve a certain crime.
Of course, if the officer’s case is weak, then the judge will be hard to convince. However, if the judge reviews the warrant and finds sufficient cause to justify the search, he’ll sign off on it and give it to law enforcement so that they can perform their duty.
Now, this whole process usually takes about a couple of hours, give or take, though this timeframe will vary from one area to another. It’ll also vary depending on the urgency of the warrant.
For instance, If the situation is especially dire and no time can be wasted, then the warrant can be expedited and signed off in a matter of minutes. However, as is the case with most search warrants, it’ll generally take the police a few hours till they get the warrant.
Of course, by the time the police get to you or your house, you’ll be looking at that warrant after another hour or so. So, all in all, the police will typically search you 2-5 hours after writing up the warrant. Of course, they can only execute the warrant from 7 am to 10 pm. However, if the judge states otherwise, they can be knocking on your door at any time of day.
Now, if you’re like me, you may wonder why a warrant is even necessary. I mean, doesn’t it just give more time for bad guys to hide evidence or escape? Well, not really.
You see, search warrants ensure that law enforcement doesn’t just go searching for any person walking down the street. There has to be a judicially-reviewed and approved cause for the search, or else police officers will be violating the 4th amendment.
So, during the time the court is reviewing the warrant, the police can simply freeze the suspect’s house, denying entrance to people and removing people inside. Yes, they can’t search or collect evidence, but they sure prevent the suspect from getting rid of the evidence.
To put it simply, bench warrants authorize law enforcement to arrest you, usually because you failed to pay a fine, attend a court session, or perform a court-mandated order.
So, how long does it take to issue a bench warrant? Well, most courts issue bench warrants in a handful of days, though this can take longer or shorter depending on the court’s workload. Anyways, once the warrant is issued, you’ll be notified of it within 14 days or so by mail, and police officers will also try to serve the warrant face-to-face within 10 days.
An arrest warrant is exactly what it sounds like: authorization for a police officer to detain you. That can be because you’ve committed a misdemeanor or felony, but either way, you broke the law in some way or another, and now you’re wanted by law enforcement.
Now, if you’re a subject of a police investigation and the detectives have gathered enough to incriminate you or at least make you their most likely suspect, then they can request an arrest warrant by submitting an affidavit to a judge. In it, they’ll state who you are and what evidence they found to link you to the crime they’re investigating. If the judge approves the warrant, they now have the right to arrest you whenever and wherever.
So, how long does it take the police to get their hands on an arrest warrant so that they can barge into your house and put you in handcuffs? Well, here is where it gets tricky.
Unfortunately, the processing time for arrest warrants significantly varies from case to case. That’s because each case has its own unexpected variables and unique conditions that ultimately affect the warrant issuance.
Let me give you an example. Say you have a case that’s absolutely crystal clear. You have your suspect, and you have indisputable evidence that he did. Then, all you have to do is write up the warrant, have the judge sign off on it, and you can go catch your bad guy in a matter of hours. Nice and simple, right?
But, what if your case is very complex, requiring multiple tests and investigations before you get somewhere definitive? It’s not easy tracking down leads, and police officers are only human. They’re bound to get stumped by a lead at certain times.
That isn’t even mentioning how much extra time will be required if your case requires accident reconstructing or chemical testing from forensics. In those cases, the warrant processing can take more than a few months till everything is in the clear.
So, even if you’re a suspect, the police won’t arrest you until all the evidence is gathered and a warrant is issued in your name. So, while that means you’ll be staying out of jail till the warrant is out, you’ll still sweat buckets whenever you hear a siren or see police officers siren in your vicinity.
What Should You Do if the Police Come with a Warrant?
Well, as for bench and arrest, there isn’t really much you can do but go quietly with the officers after you check out the warrant.
Most of these warrants will usually state the crime which resulted in the arrest, and some may have restrictions on how the arrest can be made. So, carefully read the warrant first to know all your rights and what you’re accused of. That way, you can be prepared for what comes next.
As for search warrants, it’s absolutely crucial that you meet the officers outside and read the warrant first. In case you didn’t know, some search warrants may specify a certain area of the house that can be searched. Accordingly, if the police try to search the rest of the house, you have every right to refuse.
Of course, if the police show up without a warrant and ask to search your house, you can turn them away at once as they can’t perform a search without your explicit consent. However, if they have the warrant and you have nothing to hide, then it’s best you copper, or they may force their entry, harming you or your house in the process.
Generally, you can get a warrant in an hour or two. Once the judge has reviewed the warrant and signed off on it, the police can then find you and proceed to serve the warrant, be it through a search or an arrest.
Of course, depending on the complexity of the cases, some warrants may take longer to process. However, as long as the case is obvious and the need for the warrant is apparent, the police can walk out with a warrant in just a few hours.
So, if you find yourself in the position of being confronted with a warranty, make sure to carefully read it first, then do your best to cooperate with the officers.