Arrest and Bench Warrants
Most people would list “being arrested” as one of the most frightening experiences they might go through. If you have been arrested, you probably have many questions: did the police have the legal right to arrest you? Where does the authority to arrest someone come from? If the arrest was done without a warrant, was that lawful?
The authority to take a person into custody usually comes from an arrest warrant, which is a document signed by a judge. However, there are various circumstances where the police can arrest you without a warrant.
An individual may also be taken into custody for contempt of court via a document called a bench warrant. In addition, an individual may be extradited to Texas via a fugitive warrant or governor's warrant. Understanding what these documents and procedures are is the first thing you can do to protect your rights as a defendant.
Houston Warrant Defense Attorney
Texas criminal defense lawyer Matt Horak can help answer any questions you might have about lawful arrests and arrest warrants. He has helped many Texans defend themselves after their arrests, and he has the experience necessary to assess your case and your options.
If you have been arrested in Harris or Montgomery Counties or believe that there may be an arrest warrant issued against you, you should contact Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009.
Texas Warrant Information Center
- What is an arrest warrant?
- What is a bench warrant?
- What is extradition?
- How are arrest warrants issued?
- Can I be arrested without a warrant?
- What should I do if I am arrested?
- What other resources can I use to find information about warrants?
An arrest warrant is the document giving law enforcement officers the legal right to arrest someone. Arrest warrants are issued by a judge, when there is probable cause to believe the person named on the warrant committed an offense.
The judge may decide not to issue a warrant, but instead issue a summons. A summons compels the person to appear in front of the judge. It does not allow the person to be taken into custody.
Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 15.26, when the law enforcement officers serve the warrant and make the arrest, they must tell the accused that he or she is being arrested pursuant to a warrant. The officer does not need to actually have the warrant in his or her possession to make the arrest. An officer may break into a home or other building to make the arrest if necessary.
If there is a warrant out for your arrest, or you believe there could be, you should speak with an attorney immediately. Your attorney can apprise you of your options and help you determine if a warrant is currently issued against you.
A bench warrant is issued by the judge for the apprehension of someone who has violated a court order and is therefore in contempt of court. It is different than an arrest warrant because the person named in the warrant is not being accused of a crime, but is being accused of offenses against the court. For example, if you refuse to pay your child support in violation of your support order, the judge may issue a bench warrant against you. Jurors and witnesses may also have bench warrants issued against them for failure to appear in court.
A bench warrant will authorize law enforcement to take the person named into custody and bring him or her in front of the judge.
You should do everything you can to comply with court orders and procedures. If you find yourself unable to do so, you should talk to an attorney about modifying the order. If you simply refuse to comply, a bench warrant may be issued against you.
Under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 15.04, the judge may only issue an arrest warrant if he or she is presented with an affidavit which shows that there is probable cause that the person named on the warrant committed a crime. An affidavit is signed, written testimony, usually from a law enforcement officer or the person making the complaint.
No matter where the judge signing the warrant is located, the warrant will usually be effective throughout the entire state.
Under article 15.02, the arrest warrant must have the following things to be valid:
- The name of the person to be arrested, or a reasonable description (if the name is unknown)
- Which offense the person is accused of
- Signature of the judge
If you have been arrested and you do not believe that the warrant was issued correctly or contained the above elements, you should talk to an attorney immediately.
Not all arrests are made pursuant to an arrest warrant. Although warrants are generally required for an arrest to be valid, Texas law allows for many situations where warrantless arrests are valid and legal.
- Where a law enforcement officer observes the commission of an offense
- If the officer has probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed that violates a protective order
- If the officer has probable cause to believe that a felony was committed and the assailant is about to escape
- If the officer has recovered stolen property and believes the defendant stole it
- If the officer has probable cause to believe that an assault has occurred and the victim continues to be in danger
- If the defendant is found in a “suspicious place” and under circumstances that show that the person has committed or is about to commit a felony, disorderly conduct, a breach of the peace, or public intoxication
- If the officer has probable cause to believe the defendant has assaulted a family member
- If the defendant has prevented or interfered with an emergency phone call
- If the defendant makes a voluntary statement to the officer that gives the officer probable cause to believe the person has committed a felony.
All of these exceptions can be found in Article 14 of the Texas Rules of Criminal Procedure.
Generally, a police officer also has the option of making an arrest – instead of issuing a ticket – during traffic stops. Under Texas Transportation Code §543.004, however, the officer MUST issue a ticket and may not arrest the suspect if:
- The offense is speeding or violation of the open container laws; and
- The person signs the citation and promises to appear.
If you have been arrested without a warrant and believe that the arrest was unlawful or did not fall into one of the above exceptions, you should speak with a defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Being arrested is a very frightening experience. Knowing what to do before it happens can help you protect yourself and your rights if and when you are arrested in the future. The following are the steps you should take if you are arrested:
- Do not resist arrest. Even if you believe you are innocent, once you are under arrest, the police will not change their mind and let you go. They may decide to charge you with resisting arrest, however.
- Do not speak to the police. You have a constitutional right to remain silent, and you should do so – anything you say can and will be used against you in court. Do not say anything when you are seated in the police car, even if the police are not in the vehicle, as your statements may be recorded.
- Tell the police that you wish to speak with your attorney if they attempt to question you.
- You are unlikely to have access to a telephone book while you’re being arrested, so it is always a good idea to keep the phone number of a defense attorney in your wallet or pocket. Use your phone call to contact this attorney or your family. Remember that the phone call may be recorded.
- Do not act rude or defiant. Be prepared to be photographed, handcuffed, and fingerprinted and follow police directions when doing so.
- Do not speak with other people who have been arrested and are in jail with you about your offense or criminal history.
The most important thing you can do if you or a loved one has been arrested is contact an experienced defense attorney immediately. Be prepared to be completely honest with your attorney regarding the circumstances of your arrest and your criminal history. Your attorney needs all of the facts in order to craft the best defense for you.
Texas Warrants Search - Commercial site which allows you to check whether any warrants are currently issued against you
Houston Police Department Warrants - The Houston Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Command Unit maintains a program to help find suspects with outstanding warrants including suspects wanted by the homicide division, the major crimes unit, robbery division, special crimes division for family violence and the juvenile division for failure to comply.
Felony Warrants in Harris County - Information on felony and misdemeanor warrants can be find on the Harris County District Clerk’s website under Online Services and Search Our Records and Documents.
County of Montgomery: Warrants Division210 West Davis St. Suite 330
Conroe, TX 77301
Richmond, TX 77469
Horak Law | Texas Warrant Defense Attorney
If you have been arrested, your time to defend yourself is limited. Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Horak represents criminal defendants throughout the greater Houston area, including: Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, Liberty, and Waller Counties.
If you or a loved one has been arrested, or if you believe there may be a Texas warrant out for your arrest, you should contact Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009.