Warrant – a writ used to direct or authorize someone to do an act, usually a law enforcer to make an arrest, a search, or a seizure

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1. A writ directing or authorizing someone to do an act, especially one directing a law enforcer to make an arrest, a search, or a seizure. [1]

1. A form of process, such as a warrant for the arrest of a person. 42 Am J1st Proc § 2.

An order authorizing a payment of money by another person to a third person.  An order or draft on the treasury of a public body, payable on presentation when funds are available, or a fixed date with interest, if authorized by statute. Marshall v State, 88 Fla 320, 120 So 650.

A notice of a town meeting. 52 Am J1st Towns § 13.

Justification or sanction for some act or course of conduct.

verb: To enter into an obligation of warranty; to become a warrantor.  To give authorizing or sanction for some act or course of conduct.
    See scrip. [2]

1. A form of process issued by a court: EXAMPLES: an arrest warrant; a search warrant.
     See also bench warrant; possessory warrant. [3]

administrative warrant (1951) A warrant issued by a judge at the request of the administrative agency that seeks to conduct an administrative search.  See administrative search under SEARCH (1). — aka administrative search warrant.

arrest warrant – issued by a disinterested magistrate shown probable cause, directing a law-enforcement officer to arrest and take a person into custody. — aka warrant of arrest.

bench warrant (17c) A writ is tied directly by a judge to a law-enforcement officer, especially tor the arr st of a person who has been held in contempt, has been indicted. has disobeyed a subpoena, or has failed to appear for a hearing or trial.  *  In most jurisdictions, a bench warrant is used only when the defendant has already appeared at least once.  Otherwise, an arrest warrant is issued.  A bench warrant is often issued for the arrest of a child-support obligor who is found in contempt of court for not having paid the support obligation.

1. A warrant issued by a judge for a person’s arrest. [3]

possessory warrant1. Summary process which directs that the personal property which is the subject of the warrant be returned to the person from whom it was violently or fraudulently taken. [3]
See summary process.

blanket warrant See general warrant (2); blanket search warrant under SEARCH WARRANT.

border warrant (1816) Hist. English law. A writ of arrest or other warrant concerning debts owed, issued on one side of a national border for execution on the other side; esp., such a warrant issued on either side of the border between England and Scotland.

death warrant (18c) Criminal law. A warrant authorizing a warden or other prison official to carry out a death sentence.  *  A death warrant typically sets the time and place for a prisoner’s execution.

distress warrant (18c) 1. A warrant authorizing a court officer to distrain property.  See DISTRESS.  2. A writ allowing an officer to seize a tenant’s goods for failing to pay rent due to the landlord.

emergency warrant – A warrant whose issuance is expedited because of exigent circumstances.

escape warrant (18c) Criminal law. 1. A warrant directing a peace officer to rearrest an escaped prisoner.  2. Hist. A warrant granted to retake a prisoner who had escaped from a royal prison after being committed there. 0 ”the warrant was obtained on affidavit from the judge of the court in which the action had been brought. an was directed to all sheriffs throughout England, commanding them to retake and commit the prisoner to the nearest jail.

extradition warrant (1876) Criminal law. A warrant for the return of a fugitive from one jurisdiction to another.  Cf. rendition warrant.

fugitive warrant (1900) Criminal law. An arrest warrant in one jurisdiction seeking the extradition of a defendant who is believed to have fled to another jurisdiction to avoid prosecution or punishment.

general warrant (16c) 1. Hist. A warrant issued by the English Secretary of State for the arrest of the author, printer, or publisher of a seditious libel, without naming the persons to be arrested.  *  General warrants were banned by Parliament in 1766.

     Excerpt from William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1769):

     “A practice had obtained in the secretaries office ever since the restoration, grounded on some clauses in the acts for regulating the press, of issuing general warrants to take up (without naming any person in particular) the authors, printers and publishers of such obscene or seditious libels, as were particularly specified in the warrant.  When those acts expired in 1694, the same practice was inadvertently continued, in every reign and under every administration, except the four last years of queen Anne, down to the year 1763: when such a warrant being issued to apprehend the authors, printers and publishers of a certain seditious libel, its validity was disputed; and the warrant was adjudged by the whole court of king’s bench to be void, in the case of Money v. Leach. Trin. 5 Geo. Ill. E.R.  After which the issuing of such general warrants was declared illegal by a vote of the house of commons. [4]

blanket warrant:

1. A warrant giving a law-enforcement officer broad authority to search and seize unspecified places or persons; a search or arrest warrant that lacks a sufficiently particularized description of the person or thing to be seized or the place to be searched.  *  General warrants are unconstitutional because they fail to meet the Fourth Amendment’s specificity requirements. — aka warrant.

    Excerpt from 1 Joseph Chitty, A Practical Treatise on the Criminal Law 66 (2d ed. 1826):

     “But though there are precedents of general warrants to search all suspected places for stolen goods, these are not at common law legal, because it would be extremely dangerous to leave it to the discretion of a common officer to arrest what person, or search what houses he thinks fit.  And in the great case of Money v. Leach, ‘it was declared by Lord Mansfield, that a warrant to search for, and secure the person and papers of the author, printer and publisher of a libel, is not only illegal in itself, but is so improper on the face of it, that it will afford no justification to an officer acting under its sanction.  And by two resolutions of the House of Commons such general warrants were declared to be invalid. [5]

governor’s warrant (18c) A warrant issued by a state’s governor’s office to extradite a captured suspect to another state to stand trial.  See extradition warrant.

John Doe warrant (1900) Criminal law. A warrant for the arrest of a person whose name is unknown.  *  A John Doe warrant may be issued, for example, for a person known by sight but not by name. This type of warrant is permitted in a few states, but not in federal practice.

landlord’s warrant – (1824) A type of distress warrant from a landlord to seize the tenant’s goods, to sell them at public sale, and to compel the tenant to pay rent or observe some other lease stipulation.  See DISTRAIN; DISTRESS.

outstanding warrant (1899) An unexecuted arrest warrant.

parole warrant (1918) Criminal law. A warrant issued for the arrest of a parolee.

peace warrant (18c) A warrant issued by a justice of the peace for the arrest of a specified person. — aka justice’s warrant; warrant to keep the peace.

possessory warrant (1850) A process, similar to a search warrant, used under certain circumstances by a plaintiff to search for and recover property wrongfully taken or held by another.

preliminary warrant (1859) Criminal law. A warrant to bring a person to court for a preliminary hearing on probable cause.

rendition warrant (1881) Criminal law. A warrant requesting the extradition of a fugitive from one jurisdiction to another. — aka warrant of rendition. Cf. extradition warrant.

search warrant – a judge’s written order authorizing a law-enforcement officer to search a specified place. and seize evidence. Fed. R. Crim. P. 41. — aka search-and-seizure warrant.

seizure warrant – allows law-enforcement to seize particular property, usually believed to be the fruit of a crime or an instrument used to commit a crime; often combined with a search warrant.

surreptitious-entry warrant (1985) Criminal law. A warrant authorizing a law ofliofficer to enter and observe an ongoing criminal operation (such as an illegal drug lab).

tax warrant (18c) An official process issued for collecting unpaid taxes and under which property may be seized and sold.

valid warrant (1801) A warrant that is regular in form and is issued by a court, body, or official having both the authority to issue the warrant for the purpose stated and jurisdiction over the person named, all the requisite proceedings for its proper issuance having taken place.

violation warrant (1948) A warrant issued for the arrest of a convict who has violated the terms of probation, parole, or supervised release. — aka (narrowly) probation-violation warrant.

warrant of commitment (17c) A warrant committing a person to custody. — aka commitment warrant.

warrant upon indictment or information (1903) An arrest warrant issued at the request of the prosecutor for a defendant named in an indictment or information. Fed. R. Crim. P. 9.



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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: 4 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 288 n.i (1769).

[5]: 1 Joseph Chitty, A Practical Treatise on the Criminal Law 66 (2d ed. 1826).


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