What is a warrant of arrest?

A person may only be arrested when either there is a probable cause, as we saw on the previous section, or a warrant of arrest is issued to arrest such individual who is suspected to have committed, is committing, or likely to commit a crime.

A warrant of arrest is an order issued by a judge or magistrate on behalf of the state, which authorizes the arrest and detention of an individual, or the search and seizure of an individual’s property.

At the point of arrest, the suspect is to be shown the warrant of arrest which should contain some specific details such as:

  • The date of issuance to be signed by the judge or magistrate
  • The name or description of the suspect(s) to be arrested.

In summary, when a warrant of arrest has been issued by a judge to a police officer, the police may go ahead to secure a lawful arrest.


Instances where warrant of arrest must be used to secure a lawful arrest

While there is no express provision for when a warrant of arrest must be obtained to facilitate an arrest, it is a general rule that arrest should be made with a warrant, except for exceptions permitted by law.

Instances where a valid arrest may be made without a warrant of arrest will be discussed next.


Arrest without warrant

An arrest without warrant or a warrantless arrest is an arrest made without the use of an arrest warrant.

Generally, a warrant of arrest should be provided when a police officer or any arresting officer is intending to secure an arrest but there are instances where a lawful arrest may be secured without a warrant of arrest. They include:

  • If the officer finds the suspect in the act of committing a criminal offense.
  • The police officer is in hot pursuit of a person immediately after the commission of a criminal offense.
  • Where a probable cause exists that a person has committed a criminal offense and there’s likelihood that before a warrant of arrest could be gotten, the suspect may flee, hide, taint, destroy, or falsify evidence of a criminal offense; or pressure, manipulate, or otherwise influence a witness a victim, or an accomplice.
  • Where the probable cause exists that a suspect has violated one of the restrictive measures imposed on him or her by law.
  • The provisions in Section 18 of the ACJA
  • Section 10(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act and the relevant sections in the Criminal Procedure Law of Various States.
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