"Warrant" refers to a specific type of authorization: a writ issued by a competent officer, usually a judge or magistrate, which permits an otherwise illegal act that would violate individual rights and affords the person executing the writ protection from damages if the act is performed.
Warrant for Arrest – An arrest warrant is issued by a judge or magistrate and must be supported by a signed and sworn affidavit showing probable cause that a specific crime has been committed, and that the person(s) named in the warrant committed said crime. An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a public officer which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual. In most jurisdictions, an arrest warrant is required for misdemeanors that do not occur within view of a police officer. However, as long as police have the necessary probable cause, a warrant is usually not needed to arrest someone suspected of a felony.
The material on this site primarily applies to Arrest Warrants.
Other types of Warrants:
Search Warrant – A search warrant is a warrant to search a specific premise for evidence of a specific crime. The warrant is issued by the judge if he or she finds probable cause to believe such evidence exists based on information presented by police to the judge in the form of a signed and sworn affidavit. Search warrants are generally not relevant to most of what technologists do in the field of criminal justice.
In addition to warrants for arrest for committing some specified crime, other warrants can be issued for failure to appear in court (FTA) and failure to follow a court’s orders. These warrants may be called by different names in different jurisdictions. Following is a list of some of these types of warrants:
Alias Warrant - An Alias Warrant is issued when the subject fails to appear in court for a scheduled court date before any plea has been entered or fails to respond to a citation in person or by mail. Failure to appear is an added charge.
Bench Warrant -A Bench Warrant is a variant of the arrest warrant. It is usually issued when a subject fails to appear for a required court appearance.
Capias Warrant/Capias Pro Fine Warrant – A Capias Warrant is issued when a subject has a guilty judgment either through court appearance, plea, or arraignment in jail, then fails to pay a fine or complete some specified conditions within the required time period. The only way to resolve a Capias Warrant is to pay the fine in full or be released "time served" by remaining in jail until enough jail credit has been earned.
Civil Capias Warrant - A civil capias warrant is a special type of apprehension order, issued in civil court cases where the defendant repeatedly fails to comply with the judge's orders. These are also called Body Attachments and Mittimuses, and are slightly different from Criminal Warrants. A civil capias warrant is not the same as a criminal arrest warrant. The purpose of the civil capias warrant, in a contempt case, however, is to get a person into court for the hearing.
Fugitive Warrant - Warrant sent from another state when the suspect is believed to be in local jurisdiction.
Governor's Warrant - These warrants come from the Governor's office so the suspect, who has committed a crime in another state, may be arrested and transported back to that state.