There are three types of warrants in Colorado criminal cases:
- Arrest warrants, allowing police to apprehend criminal suspects;
- Bench warrants, allowing police to apprehend people for violating court orders; and
- Search warrants, allowing police to search for evidence of criminal activity.
Judges have the power to issue and recall warrants. And defendants may be able to challenge them.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Are arrest warrants and bench warrants different?
- 2. How do I know if I have a warrant in Colorado?
- 3. If I have a warrant in Colorado, can I be arrested in another state?
- 4. Can I be arrested without a warrant?
- 5. How can I seal arrest records in Colorado?
- 6. How do search warrants work?
1. Are arrest warrants and bench warrants different?
Yes. Arrest warrants and bench warrants differ in four main ways under Colorado law:
- Arrest warrants are issued at the start of a criminal case. But bench warrants can be issued at any time during the criminal court process.
- Judges can issue arrest warrants only at the request of law enforcement agencies if there is “probable cause” that the suspect committed a crime. In contrast, judges can issue bench warrants on their own whether or not the police department wants them.
- Arrest warrants spell out which criminal charges the suspect is facing. Meanwhile, bench warrants concern a specific district- or county court order that the defendant or witness allegedly violated (such as FTA – failing to appear for a court date, failing to pay child support, or violating probation).
- It is rare for judges to recall an arrest warrant after it is has been issued. But judges usually agree to recall (“quash”) bench warrants once the person named in the warrant complies with the court’s demands (such as by paying a fine).
Otherwise, Colorado arrest warrants and bench warrants operate similarly. Both types of warrants permit Colorado police officers to apprehend the person named in the warrant. Warrants never expire until the court recalls them or the person named in the warrant gets arrested. And depending on the case, the arrestee may be able to bail out after getting arrested.1
See our related article on grand juries and indictments.
2. How do I know if I have a warrant in Colorado?
To check if you have an active warrant, Google the name of the city or county where the Colorado crime allegedly occurred as well as the word “warrant.” Among the top results should be the local court or county sheriff’s office with a link to check warrant status. You can also call a criminal defense attorney to check on your behalf.
See our related article How to search to see if I have a warrant in Denver, Colorado.
3. If I have a warrant in Colorado, can I be arrested in another state?
4. Can I be arrested without a warrant?
Yes. Colorado police may apprehend suspects without obtaining a warrant first if either:
- A misdemeanor was committed in the presence of a law enforcement officer;
- The law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe the suspect committed a felony, and the apprehension would occur in a public place;
- A police officer has probable cause to believe criminal activity is occurring or has occurred; or
- There are exigent circumstances, or evidence would be destroyed otherwise.2
5. How can I seal arrest records in Colorado?
People whose Colorado arrests did not result in a conviction can petition the court for a criminal history record seal right away. Go to Colorado Judicial Branch website for instructions and required forms. There is a $224 filing fee.3
For information on how to seal public records of convictions or juvenile records, see our article on Colorado criminal record sealing.
6. How do search warrants work?
Search warrants are court orders permitting police to search specified locations and then seize evidence of a crime. As with arrest warrants, police must apply to the court for search warrants. And the judge can only grant a search warrant if the police’s affidavit establishes probable cause that evidence exists at the location to be searched.
Note that courts can disregard (“suppress“) incriminating evidence that the police may have seized unlawfully. A common ground for a “motion to suppress evidence” is that the search warrant was overbroad and not specific enough.
- The property owner/manager gives consent to search;
- The evidence is in plain view;
- The search is “incident to a lawful arrest”; and/or
- Exigent circumstances justify not getting a warrant first.4
See our related article How does the exclusionary rule apply in Colorado?
Our criminal defense lawyers represent clients in state- and federal law courts throughout the state of Colorado, including Denver, Arapahoe, Lakewood, Jefferson County, Adams County, Douglas County, Aurora, Colorado Springs, and more.
We fight all types of criminal charges including DUI (and driver’s license revocations), drug possession, sex offender crimes, theft offenses, motor vehicle infractions, and violent crimes. Disclaimer: Results cannot be guaranteed.
- Fourth Amendment. C.R.S. 16-3-108. CRS 16-2-110. See, e.g., Kinney v. People (2008) 187 P.3d 548.
- People v. Triantos, (2002) 55 P.3d 131. U.S. v. Watson, (1976) 423 U.S. 411. People v. Hoinville, (1976) 553 P.2d 777. Devenpeck v. Alford, (2004) 543 U.S. 146. Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, (2001) 532 U.S. 318. U.S. v. Robinson, (1973) 414 U.S. 218. McCall v. People, (1981) 623 P.2d 397. People v. Moreno, (1971) 176 Colo. 488. Payton v. New York, (1980) 445 U.S. 573.
- C.R.S. 24-72.
- Payton v. New York, (1980) 445 U.S. 573.