Police warrants explained – what’s an arrest and a search warrant?
An arrest warrant gives the police lawful permission to search private premises or arrest you in your home.
In this article, we’ll talk you through an arrest warrant, including when and why the police need a search warrant, the length in which a police warrant is valid for and more.
How can the police obtain a warrant?
If the police suspect you have committed or had some involvement with a crime, they have the right to search or confiscate items from your property.
However, you have certain rights to privacy under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which could be used to argue against an unlawful arrest.
If you feel you have been subject to an unlawful arrest or an unlawful search by the police then it’s worth taking a look at our guide to making complaints against the police to see if you have a case.
The police will require a warrant to either arrest you or carry out a search of your property. An officer must apply for a warrant through the Magistrates’ Courts by making a written request.
When do the police need a search warrant?
If a police officer leading an investigation feels a suspect has committed a crime or an indictable offence (one tried in the Crown Court), they will require a warrant, which may give them grounds to search premises or arrest a suspect.
However, there are certain requirements that an officer must meet for the Court to grant a warrant, including:
- A suspect must be over 18
- The offence must be an indictable offence (the more serious crimes are tried at the Crown Court)
- When a Court summons alone would not be good enough i.e. an not established address
- A warrant request must be submitted in writing (Section 1 of the Magistrates’ Court Act 1980)
When can the police make an arrest without a warrant?
The police do sometimes have the power to make an arrest without a warrant.
Greater powers were given to the police to arrest a suspect without a warrant document, providing they have justified grounds to do so.
Again, there are certain requirements that a police officer must meet before making the arrest. For instance, they must have reasonable grounds for believing a person has, is about to or will commit an offence.
Reasons a police officer may choose to proceed without a warrant, include:
If they have a false address or information.
- To prevent a suspect from disappearing.
- If the suspect or someone is at harm.
- to protect a child or vulnerable person.
- To ensure prompt and efficient investigation of the alleged crime.
How long does it take police to get a warrant?
You may be asking yourself why an officer would need a warrant in the first place if the police can arrest and search a property without one. In practice, it is rare to apply for an arrest warrant as a police officer now has the power to arrest any person where the police officer has reasonable grounds that an offence has been committed.
For the police to obtain an arrest warrant they must write to the Magistrates court for permission. If the court grants the warrant, then the police may enter and search premises in order to make an arrest.
How long are police search warrants valid for, and what are the limits of a police warrant?
Warrants do not last forever; the police have up to three months to arrest a person after a warrant being issued.
Certain terms and police powers will also be laid out in a warrant. For instance, the courts may set a time frame determining when an arrest can take place.
Remember, if you feel you have been subject to an unlawful arrest, you should seek legal advice. Check out our section on actions against the police for more information.
Different types of warrant
There are other types of warrants that could lead to a person’s arrest, including search warrants and bench warrants.
What is a search warrant?
A search warrant may be issued for police to search a premises, for instance, the authorities may wish to search a property in relation to a drugs operation.
What is a bench warrant?
Bench warrants are more common for less serious matters, such as failure to appear in court repeatedly for a traffic offence.