The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution restricts the ability of police officers to conduct searches, seizures, and arrests. In fact, your constitutional rights are so fundamental that unless the police have a warrant or probable cause, they cannot search or arrest you.

As Seattle drug crimes lawyers, we know that police officer’s feelings, hunches, or suspicions alone are not legally enough to justify a search or an arrest. What constitutes probable cause?

How do your Fourth Amendment rights work? If you’re named in a warrant in the state of Washington, can that warrant be “thrown out” or dismissed?

WHAT WILL YOU NEED IF YOU ARE NAMED IN A WARRANT?

If you’re charged with a crime in this state, you’ll not only need to understand your rights, but you’ll also need to be advised and represented by a criminal defense law firm.

You will need to contact that attorney at once after you’ve been arrested or as soon as possible if you learn that you are under investigation for a crime or if you learn that a warrant has been issued for your arrest.

HOW DO THE POLICE OBTAIN AND USE SEARCH WARRANTS?

A search warrant lets police officers search a specific location at a specific time and to seize specific items. If police officers believe that you are selling illegal drugs from your residence, for example, they can request a search warrant for your home from a judge.

police stopping cars

To obtain the warrant, the police officers must show the judge that they have probable cause to conduct a search. They can’t request a search warrant based on hearsay or rumors. The police cannot use a search warrant to conduct blanket searches or “fishing expeditions.”

For example, if a search warrant is for a stolen automobile, a search warrant may allow the police to search a suspect’s garage but not inside a suspect’s home or office.

WHAT DOES A SEARCH WARRANT HAVE TO INCLUDE?

Police officers must show you a search warrant before they can conduct any search of your home, vehicle, workplace, or belongings. The warrant must specify precisely what it is that the police are looking for and exactly where they may search for it.

If you have concerns or questions about a particular search warrant in the state of Washington, or if you are charged with a crime on the basis of evidence seized in a police search, you must arrange at once to speak with an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney.

WHAT ARE YOUR RIGHTS IF YOU ARE NAMED IN AN ARREST WARRANT?

A warrant for your arrest is a serious matter. Arrest warrants authorize law enforcement officers to place criminal suspects under arrest. An arrest warrant must include a suspect’s name, the charge, jurisdiction, date, time that the warrant was issued, and the judge’s signature.

judge signing arrest warrant

Judges in this state sign arrest warrants on the basis of evidence provided by police officers and/or prosecutors or on the basis of grand jury indictments. The police and/or prosecutor must show the judge that there is probable cause to have the suspect arrested.

Probable cause for an arrest warrant is evidence which supports a reasonable belief that the suspect named by the arrest warrant has in fact committed a criminal offense.

WHAT ARE BENCH WARRANTS?

Arrest warrants called “bench warrants” are issued by judges for defendants who fail to appear at scheduled hearings in criminal cases, and “civil” warrants may be issued in the state of Washington for parents who are delinquent on child support payments.

Unlike other arrest warrants, a bench warrant doesn’t compel the police to knock on your door or to search for you actively. But if you are stopped by the police for any reason while a bench warrant is pending, you will be taken into custody.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DEAL WITH AN ARREST WARRANT?

Obviously, it’s never a good time to be arrested, but if an arrest warrant is issued for you, it must be dealt with immediately. If you “duck” an arrest warrant, you’re unlikely to benefit from a low bail amount or to receive any other leniency from the court.

Background checks in the state of Washington for housing, employment, firearms, and public benefits include checks for active arrest warrants, and the Department of Licensing can suspend your driver’s license if there is a pending arrest warrant with your name on it.

The best way to deal with a bench warrant, or with any arrest warrant, is to consult your criminal defense lawyer. If you know or believe that an arrest warrant has been issued with your name on it, you must arrange at once to speak with a skilled Seattle criminal defense attorney.

HOW CAN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAW FIRM HELP YOU?

Your defense attorney can learn if there is in fact an arrest warrant issued for you. If so, your attorney can also find out what the charge is and what the amount of bail will be.

A good criminal defense lawyer will try to have the charge against you dropped while simultaneously developing a defense strategy to offer in your behalf at a trial.

attorney getting charges dismissed

If your attorney cannot have the charge against you dismissed, and if you believe that you are innocent, you should contest the charge and insist on a jury trial.

However, if the state’s evidence against you is substantial, your attorney may instead recommend accepting a plea bargain – that is, pleading guilty to a lesser charge – rather than taking your case to trial.

WHAT IF THE DETAILS IN A WARRANT ARE INCORRECT?

You may have heard urban legends about criminals going free because someone’s name was misspelled – or because some numbers were transposed – on an arrest warrant. That doesn’t happen in the state of Washington.

While the facts presented in an arrest warrant must be substantially accurate – or the warrant can be dismissed – the state of Washington will not dismiss a warrant because of a typographical error or a minor technical mistake. According to the Washington Superior Court Criminal Rules:

“No person arrested under a warrant or appearing in response to a summons shall be discharged from custody or dismissed because of any irregularity in the warrant or summons, but the warrant or summons may be amended so as to remedy any such irregularity.”

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DEAL WITH A WARRANT?

In other words, the best way to deal with a warrant in this state is simply to deal with it. Have a trustworthy criminal defense lawyer represent you before a judge and fight for the justice you need and deserve.

attorney helping client

The moment you learn that your name is on a search warrant or an arrest warrant, get the legal help you need. If you’ve been named in a warrant in the state of Washington, a good lawyer’s help is your right, and in fact, your future could depend on it.