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Arrest Warrants in DC

In Washington DC, an arrest warrant is issued by a judge and authorizes law enforcement officers to arrest an individual for an offense for which there is probable cause to believe that he or she has committed. A judge must include the name of the person who is to be arrested, a description of the offense, the date that the warrant is issued, and the judge’s personal signature. The arrest warrant must order that the named person be arrested by law enforcement and brought before the court.

If you have been issued an arrest warrant or believe that a warrant for your arrest exists, it is very important to contact a DC criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you can protect your rights and your freedom.

Probable Cause

Probable cause must be found for a judge to issue an arrest warrant in DC. Probable cause is established when there are facts to support a reasonable belief that an offense was committed by that named person. Therefore, a law enforcement officer has to have more than a mere hunch, or suspicion without any facts in order to support the hunch or suspicion.

In determining whether law enforcement had probable cause to arrest, courts will look at the totality of the circumstances to decide whether the facts supported a reasonable belief that the arrested person committed the offense for which he or she was arrested. A judge must find probable cause to believe the person committed the offense before the judge can issue an arrest warrant.

Obtaining a Warrant

In order for a Washington DC law enforcement officer to obtain an arrest warrant, they must submit a complaint, which is a document that has to be submitted to the judge. The complaint must outline all of the facts and circumstances that establish the charge offense.

The law enforcement officer must then submit the complaint upon an oath before the court and if the court finds probable cause that an offense has been committed by the person identified in the complaint, then an arrest warrant will be issued.

How Long It Takes

This will depend on the length of the investigation done by law enforcement at the point that law enforcement can establish probable cause; the judge will issue an arrest warrant.

Consequences For Resisting a Warrant

If a person resists a police officer, who is attempting to arrest him or her, that person could face an Assault on a Police Officer if the conduct goes beyond speech and passive resistance or avoidance.

If the person crosses the line to active confrontation or any other action that is directed against an officer’s performance of his or her duties that prohibits the officer from questioning or attempting to arrest them, the circumstances may be sufficient for an Assault on a Police Officer charge.

If a person passively avoids arrest and goes about his or her regular activities, that person could face the possibility of being arrested at any given time, possibly during work or at his or her home. If the person moves out of the District of Columbia, that person could be detained and arrested at the airport while traveling.

Determining if a Warrant Exists

If you suspect a warrant for your arrest exists, you should contact an attorney. Your attorney will be able to reach out to law enforcement to determine if there is an arrest warrant, and what crime the arrest warrant is for. This will eliminate any risk of law enforcement asking you questions about the case.

Your attorney can inform law enforcement that you will not be answering any questions and also assist you in turning yourself in to execute the warrant.

Arresting Someone Without a Warrant

There does not have to be a warrant issued for a person’s arrest for law enforcement to properly arrest somebody. If a law enforcement officer witnesses a person committing an offense, the officer may arrest that person. When a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that someone has committed or is presently committing a felony offense in front of the officer, the officer may arrest that person.

There are also specific crimes that authorize a law enforcement officer to arrest a person so long as that officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed the offense.

Some examples of these specific crimes are offenses committed against a person, family member, stalking, sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a minor, sexual proposal to a minor, and unlawful entry of a motor vehicle.

Faulty Arrest

If a judge issued an arrest warrant for a person believed to have committed an offense that is punishable by only a year in jail or less, or is punishable only by a fine, an arrest would be unlawful if the arrest warrant had been executed a year after the judge issued the warrant.

Additionally, an arrest would be unlawful if the warrant itself was missing certain information that was required. For example, if the judge forgot to sign the warrant, that arrest for that person would be unlawful.

An attorney will always be in the best position to evaluate whether you are arrested unlawfully. That attorney would also be able to ensure that your constitutional rights are protected and file any appropriate motions if your rights had been violated.

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