Christoph Law Offices, DUI & Criminal Defense
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Christoph Law Offices, DUI & Criminal Defense
Christoph Law Offices, DUI & Criminal Defense


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  • Former Deputy San Diego City Attorney
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Attorneys William R. Christoph & Nicholas W. Christoph

What you should know about arrests and arrest warrants


Are you curious what it means when there is an arrest warrant in your name? Find out the details about arrest warrants and what you can do about them.

There are many ways that law enforcement may arrest a person for a crime. An officer can arrest a person per an arrest warrant issued by a Judge or without a warrant per California Penal Code 836 (a) when:

(1). The officer has probable cause to believe the person to be arrested has committed a public offense in the officer’s presence.

(2) The person arrested has committed a felony, although not in the officer’s presence.

(3) The officer has probable cause to believe the person to be arrested has committed a felony, whether or not a felony ,in fact, has been committed.” (PC 836)

There are additional specific subsections of PC 836 addressing arrests in cases involving domestic violence, restraining orders, assault, battery and firearms

In many situations, arrests happen at the time of the incident and warrants are not necessary. However, an officer may also get an arrest warrant from a California court that gives him or her the ability to arrest a person at a later time with a showing of probable cause to arrest. This often happens when investigations reveal probable cause for an arrest and prosecution at a later time.

What is the point of a warrant?

Warrants are issued for arrest not only for new crimes but for other reasons also based on the underlying probable cause to arrest. Often it is for failure to appear in Court for a future date after being cited and released, or arrested and released on bail or defendant’s own recognizance. Additionally, warrants are regularly issued for probation violations in misdemeanor or felony cases where the defendant has failed to fulfill a condition of probation like program completion or failed to abide by other terms of probation. Warrants can issue for minor crimes or serious felonies. A person may or may not be aware of an active warrant until it is too late and an officer places them under arrest.

Where does a warrant come from?

California Legislative Information states that only a judge or other empowered person may issue a warrant. This happens when the judge sees evidence in a declaration that provides probable cause to believe the defendant has committed an offense. The warrant provides law enforcement authority to arrest the person.

The warrant must include the name of the defendant and the date and time of issue. It must also include the city or county of issue and the judge must sign it. Typically, the judge will also set bail, and this information will also be on the warrant.

In some cases, especially misdemeanors, instead of a issuing a warrant initially, the District Attorney will send a “Notify Letter” to a person giving them a Court date to appear for arraignment on a new charge where the defendant had no knowledge he was being charged – then, if the defendant does not respond by coming to Court, a Judge can issue a warrant for arrest with a declaration of probable cause by the DA.

What happens upon the serving of a warrant?

If officers arrest someone on a warrant, the person has the right to see a judge as soon as possible. Usually, this means within 48 hours of the arrest for a new case. However, this time period does not include holidays or Sundays.

How can a person know if there is a warrant?

If a person suspects he or she has a warrant for his or her arrest, then he or she may check the list on the San Diego County Sherriff Department’s website or call the office. A person may also hire an attorney and have the attorney check into any active warrants.

If a person has a warrant for his or her arrest, he or she may contact the court to see how to clear it up. Warrants can be recalled by showing up to Court to address the issue or by arrest. Many misdemeanor warrants can be lifted with a Court appearance by an attorney only. There are a number of scenarios depending on the case. Felony warrants in San Diego County Courts require the defendant present. It may be best for a person to consider legal representation, such as Christoph Law Offices when facing an active warrant.

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