When you find yourself at the center of a police investigation, understanding warrants in Colorado’s criminal system is crucial to following the law and protecting your rights. Find out how search warrants and arrest warrants work, and what your rights are if you are named in a warrant.
Common Types of Warrants in Colorado
A warrant is a court order instructing or allowing police to do the thing described in the document. There are different types of warrants:
How Colorado Arrest Warrants Work
Arrest warrants are the most common type of warrants in Colorado. An arrest warrant authorizes the police to locate, detain, and hold a specific person. Police can arrest people without a warrant if they witness the person violating the law (such as arresting a drunk driver after a DUI stop), or when officers have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. However, in other cases, when a citizen reports a crime after the fact, the police must obtain an arrest warrant to take a person of interest into custody.
To get a Colorado arrest warrant, the police must file an affidavit laying out the facts they have uncovered in their investigation to support the arrest. This sworn statement must prove to the judge that probable cause exists to believe a specific crime was committed and that a particular person committed it. If the judge or magistrate is convinced, he or she will issue an arrest warrant that describes:
Who the police want to arrest (by name or clear physical description)
The crime the person is accused of
The time and place the warrant was issued
The judge’s name and signature
The bail amount that can be posted
When and where the warrant can be executed.
Like arrest warrants, bench warrants also allow the police to detain a person. However, while arrest warrants are issued when a crime has been committed, bench warrants are issued when a court order has been violated. For example, if you fail to show up for a court hearing, or if you fall behind on your child support payments, the judge in your case can issue a bench warrant to have you detained and brought to court.
Understanding Search Warrants
While arrest warrants and bench warrants apply to people, search warrants apply to things or places. A search warrant authorizes the police to go to a specific location to look for and take possession of specific things. Most often, search warrants are used to gain entry to a home or business to search for evidence of crimes committed there. Once again, the police must sign an affidavit and submit it to the court explaining:
Where they want to search
What they believe they will find there
How those items are evidence of a crime
A search warrant is often the first sign to someone that the police are investigating them for criminal behavior. “Probable cause” to support a search warrant is a very low standard, and judges award search warrants easily, even when there isn’t enough evidence to support an arrest. Police generally don’t make search warrants known before they execute them by showing up at the described location. If they did, it would provide time for the people in the location to destroy or remove evidence of the crime. Instead, the police will show up with little to no notice, make a thorough (and often destructive) search of the property, and take anything they think they can connect to the crime.
Police don’t have to give you advanced notice when they execute a standard search warrant, but they at least need to knock, announce their presence, and give you a minute to respond. No-knock warrants eliminate that requirement. They allow the police to enter a property with no advance notice at all. No-knock warrants are legal in Colorado, but they are not widely used. Aurora, Colorado banned them altogether following the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
Understanding Your Rights if You are Served with a Warrant
Even if your name appears on a warrant, you still have rights. These include the right to:
See and read the warrant itself
Peacefully decline to extend any search beyond the scope of the warrant
Refuse to speak with officers beyond identifying yourself and remain silent
Receive a prompt arraignment after any arrest
Be released on bond (in many cases) pending a hearing or trial on your case
Asserting these rights often means hiring an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney at the first sign of an investigation against you. By talking to a criminal lawyer, even before a search warrant is executed, you can get help understanding warrants in Colorado, and protect yourself from unreasonable and unlawful searches and arrests.At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience within the Colorado court system. We represent our clients at every stage of the criminal case, from the initial police investigation, through sentencing, as well as any probation or parole violations. We work hard to protect our clients’ privacy and represent their interests in criminal court. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.