Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky


A warrant is a written order issued by a judicial officer or any other authorized person that commands a law-enforcement officer to carry out an act necessary for the execution of justice.

There are many types of warrants that can be used for a variety of purposes. Two of the more common types are arrest and search warrants that give an officer the legal right to take someone into custody or search a property. A judge may also issue a warrant for someone who misses a court date for mandatory hearing.

Warrants are required by law because of the protections and rights guaranteed to citizens by the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects everyone from unreasonable searches and seizures. The police cannot arrest a person or search their property without a legal warrant.

There are some exceptions however. If there is a chance that the suspect might flee or the evidence at a location may get destroyed due to delay in getting a warrant, the court may allow a search or arrest without a warrant.

State Legislation

The different types of search and arrest warrants are covered under 725 ILCS 108 and 725 ILCS 5/107.

The law states that a judge may issue a search warrant upon the written complaint of any person under oath which states facts sufficient to show probable cause for the search. The statement should particularly describes the place or person, or both, to be searched and all things to be seized. During the search, the officers may seize the following.

  • Any instruments or things designed or intended to be used, or have been used, in the commission of an offense for which the warrant is issued.
  • Any contraband, fruits of the crime, and things that are acquired and possessed criminally.
  • Any person who has been kidnapped in violation of Illinois laws. This includes a person who has been kidnapped in another jurisdiction but is now kept within the state of Illinois.
  • A human corpse, human fetus.

An arrest warrant is a written order from a court directed to a peace officer or another named person commanding them to arrest a person.

A peace officer may arrest a person under one of the following conditions.

  • The officer has a warrant commanding the arrest of the person.
  • The officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the person.
  • The officer has reasonable grounds to believe that the person is committing or has committed an offense.
Considerations & Penalties

All types of warrants are required to include the date and time of issue. A warrant must be executed within 96 hours from the time of issuance before it expires and a new warrant must be obtained to carry out the search or arrest.

The peace officer executing the search or arrest is required to enter the date and time of execution. The officer must leave a duplicate copy with the person or at the place from where an instrument is seized.

A person resisting lawful arrest or search from an officer with a valid warrant can be charged with additional offenses such as resisting arrest and obstruction of justice which carry additional jail time.

Outstanding Warrant

A person who fails to appear in court when he or she has a court hearing for a criminal offense may get a warrant issued for his or her arrest. This happens when a defendant charged for an offense is released on bail.

One of the main conditions of bail is that the defendant would appear in court on each court date to face the charges. While a defendant may be allowed leniency in case of a medical condition, failure to meet court dates will get the bail cancelled.

An outstanding warrant, aka bench warrant, is issued by court in such cases. The law enforcement agencies are required to immediately arrest and bring the person to court after the issuance of this warrant.

Rights to Refuse Searches without Warrants

Many people don’t have the legal knowledge about when the police have the right to search their person or property. This is because the line between legal and illegal stop and search is quite blurred. In many cases, we have seen that even the law enforcing officers do not have complete knowledge about when they can and cannot search a person.

When a police officer possesses a valid warrant, the search is lawful and the person should cooperate with the authorities.

However, in the absence of a valid warrant, a person has the right to question the officer on why they were stopped or the reason why the peace officer wants to search them or their property. Questioning a police officer about the legal grounds for the search does not constitute resisting arrest.

The police office can only stop and search a person when they have reasonable suspicion that a criminal offense has been committed or about to be committed by the person.

Reasonable Suspicion and Probable Cause

These two terms are important in legal proceedings involving searches, arrests and detention. Although they sound similar, the two terms are quite distinct from one another.

Reasonable suspicion occurs when there is some indication that an offense has been committed by a person, but the officer cannot be sure. Probable cause occurs when the officer has ample evidence and believes it is very likely that the offense was committed by the person.

When an officer has reasonable suspicion about a person’s actions, the person can be detained briefly for questioning or conducting a search. If the questioning or search reveals that the person had committed a crime or is about to commit a crime, the officer can arrest the person under probable cause.

A warrant can only be issued by a judge on the basis of probable cause. A person requesting for an arrest warrant must show ample evidence that links the accused to the crime.

Getting Bail

Even if a person has a warrant out for his or her arrest, he or she can still get bail which will release the warrant. A good defense lawyer can get in touch with the courts to review the details of the warrant and make arrangements to have the warrant case heard in court.

Once the active warrant has cleared, the attorney can make a strategy to get any charges against the person dismissed.