Arrest warrants allow police to apprehended, jail, and bring suspects into court to answer criminal charges. Depending on the case, arrested suspects may be released on bail, released on their own recognizance, or detained with no bail.
Nevada judges may issue an arrest warrant if the police or D.A. show probable cause that the suspect committed the criminal activity described in the complaint. Judges will also issue an arrest warrant if a grand jury indicts the suspect.
A defense attorney can challenge an arrest's validity whether the arrest was executed with or without a warrant. If the arrest warrant was issued or executed illegally, the attorney may be able to get enough evidence excluded to cause the D.A. to drop the charges.
In this article, our Las Vegas arrest warrant attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about the definition, procedures, and ways to fight arrest warrants in Nevada. Click on a topic to go to that section:
- 1. What are arrest warrants in Nevada?
- 2. When and how do arrests warrants get issued in Nevada?
- 3. Can I be arrested without an arrest warrant in Nevada?
- 4. How do police carry out arrest warrants in Nevada?
- 5. What are summons and citations in Nevada?
- 6. What is bail, and how is it set?
- 7. Can I prevent an arrest warrant from being issued in Nevada?
- 8. Can I turn myself into the court that issued the arrest warrant?
- 9. What if I have an arrest warrant in Nevada but am out of state or the U.S.?
- 10. How do I fight illegal arrest warrants in Nevada?
- 11. Can I get an arrest record sealed in Nevada?
- 12. Do I have an arrest warrant in Nevada?
Arrest warrants allow police to place suspects under arrest pursuant to NRS 171.104 in Nevada if there is probable cause to believe he/she broke the law.1 Like it sounds, "probable cause" means there is a reasonable belief that criminal activity has taken place, and that the suspect committed it.2
An arrest warrant is valid in Nevada only if it:
- is properly signed by the magistrate judge;
- contains the name of the defendant (or a description that allows law enforcement to identify him/her with reasonable certainty);
- states the date of its issuance and the county, city or town where it was issued;
- describes the offense charged in the complaint; and
- commands that the defendant be arrested and brought before the nearest available magistrate judge.3
Note that arrest warrants are different from bench warrants: The state has to request that judges issue an arrest warrant, but judges may issue bench warrants on their own. And whereas arrest warrants begin a criminal case, bench warrants may be issued anytime during the life of the case.
Arrest warrants mark the beginning of a criminal case, and only judges may issue them. There are two ways that judges may issue arrest warrants:
- upon information by police or the District Attorney, or
- upon grand jury indictment
The most common way Nevada judges issue arrest warrants is through an "information." This is when the police or District Attorney presents the judge with evidence detailing evidence that:
- there is probable cause that a crime occurred, and
- that the suspect named in the complaint committed it.4
This evidence typically takes the form of an affidavit. It the judge agrees that the information shows probable cause, he/she will issue the arrest warrant. But if the judge believes the information fails to show probable cause, the judge will not issue an arrest warrant.5
Judges will also issue an arrest warrant following a grand jury indictment, which is usually reserved for more serious crimes or high-profile cases Nevada...
First a prosecutor pitches the allegations to the grand jury (16 to 20 people selected from a jury pool). If at least 12 of them agree there is sufficient information for the suspect to be charged with the alleged crime, they "indict" the suspect. At this point, the judge will issue the arrest warrant.6
If the suspect allegedly committed a misdemeanor, warrantless arrests are legal as long as the police witnessed the crime. And if the police have reasonable cause to believe the suspect committed a gross misdemeanor or felony, the police may make a warrantless arrest without having witnessed the crime:
3.1 Crime committed in the officer's presence
Nevada police may make warrantless arrests when the suspect allegedly commits the crime in the officer's presence.7 This is because the suspect might flee if police had to wait to get a warrant first.
3.2 Class of crime
If the suspect allegedly committed a misdemeanor but the police did not witness it, then the police are required to secure an arrest warrant in order to make a lawful arrest.
But if the suspected crime is a gross misdemeanor or felony, then cops may make a warrantless arrest even if it occurred outside of their presence. The only condition is that the police must have reasonable cause to believe the suspect committed it.8 North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an illustration:
Example: A pedestrian alerts a Henderson police officer to a fight occurring a few blocks away. The police officer goes to investigate and sees John holding a gun and another man suffering from a fresh gunshot wound. Even though the cop did not see John shoot the gun, the police may arrest John because he would have reasonable cause to believe John attempted to commit murder, which is a felony.
In sum, whether a warrantless search is legal depends on (1) whether the cop witnessed the crime firsthand, and (2) whether the crime was a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony.
Once a judge issues an arrest warrant, law enforcement has the authority to execute the warrant by arresting the defendant.9 In order for an arrest to be legal, the police have to follow several rules regarding (1) timing, (2) location, and (3) force used.
4.1. Time of Arrest
If the charge is for a felony or gross misdemeanor, police may make an arrest at any time. For misdemeanors, police may make an arrest only between 7 a.m and 7 p.m. unless:
- the magistrate judge issuing the warrant allows a night arrest; or
- the officer witnessed the alleged criminal activity; or
- the suspect has a warrant out for his/her arrest which the officer discovered only after stopping and detaining the suspect in a public place on another alleged offense, such as speeding; or
- the suspect voluntarily surrenders in response to an outstanding arrest warrant; or
- the suspect is already in custody from another lawful arrest; or
- the alleged offense is battery domestic violence or the violation of a temporary or extended order of protection against domestic violence.10
Once the arrest takes place in Nevada, the suspect must be brought before a judge within 72 hours. If law enforcement delays in doing so, then the suspect's attorney should be able to get the suspect released.11
Note that if police delayed too long to make an arrest, an attorney may be able to get the case dismissed; the attorney would argue that the delay prejudiced the defendant's right to a fair and speedy trial.12
4.2. Place of arrest
Police may make arrests anywhere. They do not have to have the arrest warrant with them when they make an arrest. But if the arrestee asks for it, the police should provide it as soon as possible.13
Note that suspects do not have to let police in their homes if there is no warrant out for their arrest. But if the suspect consents to let the police inside, then police no longer need a warrant to make the arrest.14
4.3. Necessary Force
If the suspect resists arrest, the police may use "necessary force" to carry out the arrest, including violence.15 The suspect could also face additional charges for resisting arrest.
In less serious criminal cases, police can avoid making arrest altogether if the judge issues a "summons" or the cop simply writes a "citation."
Obviously receiving a summons or citation is a lot less unpleasant than being arrested. But as soon as suspects receive a summons or citation, it is important they retain counsel right away to begin fighting the charges.
Note that ignoring a summons or citation will result in the judge issuing a bench warrant for the suspect's arrest. This makes the suspect vulnerable to extra jail time, fines, and a driver's license suspension.
Prosecutors typically request judges to issue a summons in lieu of arrest warrants when:
- the suspect is not a flight risk, and
- the alleged criminal activity is non-violent or minor16
Similar in appearance to a warrant, a summons is a notice that is either mailed or served on the suspect by a process server.17 The summons orders the suspect to appear in court on a specified date.18
When police witness alleged misdemeanor crimes, they often opt to issue a citation instead of arresting the suspect.19 For instance, breaking minor Nevada traffic laws will usually result in citations rather than arrest.
A citation is similar to a summons in that it charges the defendant with a crime and orders him/her to appear in court on a certain date to answer the charges.20
Note there are some misdemeanors, such as battery domestic violence and DUI, where the police must formally arrest the suspect instead of giving a citation.21 And if the cop sees that a suspect has an outstanding warrant, the cop will arrest him/her no matter how minor the crime is.22
When judges issue a Nevada arrest warrant, they usually set a bail amount to go with it.23 After criminal suspects get arrested and booked, the court may release them if they pay the specified bail amount or post bond through a bail bondsman.
Bail money gets returned to the defendant once the case concludes. In short, paying bail serves as a promise to the court that the defendant will cooperate with authorities until the case resolves.
6.1. Bail Schedule
Every Nevada court has a " bail schedule" matching each criminal offense with a specific bail amount.24 Expectedly, judges set higher bails for more serious crimes.
In the most serious cases, the judge may refuse to set bail at all in order to keep the suspect in custody throughout the duration of the case. This typically happens in cases where:
- the punishment includes death or life imprisonment, or
- the defendant had violated parole, or
- the defendant is an escaped convict, or
- the defendant is a flight risk.25
6.2. O.R. Release
In cases that are more minor, the judge may decide to release the defendant on his/her own recognizance (O.R.). This means the defendant does not have to pay any bail as long as he/she makes all future court appearances.26
Note that defense attorneys can always request bail hearings to request that the judge lower bail or grant O.R. release.
It depends. A pre-file investigation may be enough to stop a warrant from issuing. If not, a defense attorney may be able to prevent the defendant from going to jail while the case proceeds:
7.1. Pre-file Investigation
Once people become aware that they are being investigated for a crime, they should contact a criminal defense lawyer right away. The attorney would then begin a "pre-file investigation," which is where the attorney researches all the available evidence to size up the strength of the state's case.
At this point, the attorney can explore various avenues to stave off an arrest warrant from being issued. One way is to show the D.A. exculpatory evidence (facts demonstrating the suspect's innocence) in order to persuade the state to drop the matter altogether.
7.2. If the warrant has already issued
Even if an arrest warrant has already been issued, a criminal defense lawyer can still take measures to mitigate the unpleasantness:
The attorney can voluntarily appear before the court with the defendant and request O.R. release or a bail reduction. This is preferable to waiting for the police to make an arrest, which can be very embarrassing and disruptive if it happens at work.
By taking the initiative to go to the court with counsel, the defendant is showing the court that he/she is taking the case seriously and will follow proper procedure without having to be detained in jail.
Yes, but no one should turn him/herself in without first consulting counsel. If a suspect goes to court by him/herself without legal representation, it is very likely that the judge will turn a deaf ear to his/her excuses and order him/her to jail.
An experienced defense attorney knows which tactics hold the most sway with which judges. The attorney may be able to persuade the judge to release suspects on O.R. or reduce bail. In some cases, an attorney may even be able to have the warrant cleared without any kind of conditions or penalties at all.
People who leave Nevada with the knowledge they have a warrant in Nevada are considered fugitives.27 Being a fugitive is itself a crime that carries its own penalties.
Depending on the case, suspected fugitives caught in another state and most countries may be extradited to Nevada to face charges. Predictably, suspected fugitives accused of felonies are more likely to be arrested and extradited than if they were accused of minor offenses, such as traffic tickets.
All suspected fugitives are entitled to a hearing protesting the extradition order. Any jail time suspected fugitives serve in another state awaiting extradition will be credited towards their final sentence.28 And suspects who honestly did not know about the arrest warrant when they left Nevada may be able to be relieved of fugitive status.
Extradition is a complicated process with different rules for each jurisdiction. All suspects should hire counsel in both Nevada and the state or country where they are arrested in order to safeguard their rights and expedite the extradition process.29
Note that non U.S. citizens with arrest warrants in Nevada are advised to retain legal counsel as soon as possible in effort to avoid immigration court and deportation. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
Arrest warrants are invalid if they are issued without probable cause or in breach of proper judicial procedure.30 However, a faulty arrest warrant alone may not be enough to get the criminal charges dismissed...31
Two strategies criminal defense attorneys use to fight cases with illegal arrest warrants in Nevada are (1) to show the police committed misconduct in the case, or (2) to file a writ of habeas corpus:
10.1. Police misconduct
Police may make mistakes and cut corners when investigating cases and arresting suspects. Therefore, defense attorneys should examine how a suspect's arrest warrant was acquired and executed...
Then the attorneys can use that information to assert to the court that the police acted wrongly. Furthermore, they can argue that any incriminating evidence police acquired due to the misconduct should be excluded from the case.32 For instance:
Example: A cop from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has probable cause to believe Lars violated Nevada cocaine law in Laughlin and secures a warrant for his arrest. The cop arrests Lars in his home and then proceeds to search his entire house, where he finds more cocaine.Since the warrant did not authorize the cop to search Lars' house, his attorney could probably get the cocaine excluded as evidence. And once it is excluded, the state's argument that Lars possessed cocaine in Laughlin becomes much weaker. This may prompt the D.A. to dismiss the whole case.
In sum, if a defense attorney can show the Nevada cops' misconduct was illegal or could be prejudicial to the defendant at trial, the prosecutor could be more willing to negotiate down the charges. And if the judge agrees to suppress evidence found through the police's misconduct, the prosecutor may even be willing to drop the charges altogether.
10.2. Writ of Habeas Corpus
If a suspect is in custody on what may be an invalid arrest warrant, the defense attorney can file a writ of habeas corpus with the court.33 The writ would spell out all the reasons why the incarceration is illegal.34 If the judge agrees that the suspect is being unlawfully jailed, the judge may release the defendant.
It depends on how the case turns out. If the case gets dismissed without any conviction, the defendant can petition the court to seal the arrest records right away.35 But if the defendant gets convicted, there is a one to ten (1 - 10) year waiting period to get a record seal depending on the case. Learn more about Nevada record seal waiting times.36
A few Nevada courts permit people to search online for their warrant status. Some of these websites are:
- Las Vegas Municipal court warrant search
- Clark County case search (under case status, select "warrant")
- Henderson Municipal Court warrant list
- Henderson Justice Court warrant list
- North Las Vegas Municipal Court warrant search (under case status, select "warrant")
If you suspect you may have an outstanding warrant, it is recommended you contact a criminal defense attorney to look into the matter for you.
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...
To find out more about "arrest warrants" in Nevada and to schedule a free consultation with our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys, phone us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation.
For information about California arrest warrants, refer to our informational article on California arrest warrant laws.
For information about Colorado arrest warrants, refer to our informational article on Colorado arrest warrant laws.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys clear arrest warrants and take on any other criminal matter in and around Clark County, Nye County, and Washoe County, including Henderson, Boulder City, North Las Vegas, Mesquite, Laughlin, Pahrump and Reno.
- NRS 171.106; Woerner v. Justice Court of Reno Tp. ex rel. County of Washoe, 116 Nev. 518, 523-524, 1 P.3d 377, 380 - 381 (2000) ("[A]n arrest warrant or summons may issue upon probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the named person committed it, and nothing more. NRS 171.106.").
- Gordon v. State, 83 Nev. 177, 179 (1967) ("The Fourth Amendment commands that no warrants for either searches or arrests shall issue except upon 'probable cause.' That proscription is enforcible [sic] against the States through the Fourteenth Amendment. Mapp v. State of Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961). Probable cause exists if the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the moment of the arrest would warrant a prudent man in believing that a felony had been committed by the person arrested. Beck v. State of Ohio, 379 U.S. 89 (1964))."); Schnepp v. State, 82 Nev. 257, 261 (1966) ("Reasonable cause for arrest has been defined as such a state of facts as would lead a man of ordinary care and prudence to believe or entertain an honest and strong suspicion that the person is guilty.").
- Nelson v. City of Las Vegas, 99 Nev. 548, 552 (1983) ("The facially valid warrant provides the "legal cause or justification" for the arrest, in the same way that an arrest made with probable cause is privileged and not actionable."); NRS 171.108; NRS 179.380.
- NRS 107.102.
- Watson v. Sheriff, Lyon County, 93 Nev. 403, 404 (1977) ("It is settled that a complaint which consists of nothing more than the complainant's conclusions is constitutionally insufficient. Whiteley v. Warden, 401 U.S. 560 (1971). The complaint under review in Whiteley ... was held to be insufficient to enable a magistrate to make an independent judgment that probable cause existed for an arrest warrant.").
- NRS 171.100 Indictment found when it is presented and filed. An indictment is found, within the meaning of this chapter, when it is presented by the grand jury in open court, and there received and filed; NRS 172.285.
- NRS 171.124; NRS 453.271.
- NRS 171.124; NRS 453.271.
- NRS 173.195.
- NRS 171.136; NRS 171.137.
- NRS 171.178.
- Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
- NRS 171.122.
- Ford v. State, 122 Nev. 796, 805 (2006) ("It is well-settled that a consensual entry excuses the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement for an arrest at a suspect's home. Murray v. State, 105 Nev. 579, 583 (1989) (citing Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 576 (1980))").
- Dumaine v. State, 103 Nev. 121, 124 (1987) ("NRS 171.122. This statute, concerning the execution of arrest warrants, authorizes an officer to use necessary force to effect an arrest in the event that the defendant resists or flees.").
- NRS 171.106.
- NRS 171.122.
- NRS 171.112.
- NRS 171.1771.
- NRS 171.1773.
- NRS 171.137; NRS 484.791.
- NRS 171.177.
- NRS 178.484.
- NRS 173.155.
- NRS 179.209.
- NRS 178.4851.
- NRS 179.221.
- Nieto v. State, 119 Nev. 229, 232 (2003) ("[A] defendant is entitled to credit for time served in presentence confinement in another jurisdiction when that confinement was solely pursuant to the charges for which he was ultimately convicted.").
- NRS 179.223.
- An example of an illegal arrest warrant is one that issues after the same matter had already been filed and dismissed: NRS 174.085.
- Graves v. State, 112 Nev. 118, 129 (1996) ("We first note that an illegal arrest alone does not entitle a defendant to have a conviction set aside. United States v. Crews, 445 U.S. 463, 474 (1980) ("[T]he illegality of [a defendant's] detention cannot deprive the Government of the opportunity to prove his guilt through the introduction of evidence wholly untainted by the police misconduct.")").
- Powell v. State, 113 Nev. 41, 45 (1997) ("In Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383, 398 (1914), the United States Supreme Court first reasoned that evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment must be excluded in the federal courts. The Court later increased the breadth of the exclusionary rule by holding that the rule applied to the states as well as to the federal government. Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 655 (1961)."); however, the exclusionary rule doesn't apply if the police genuinely believed the warrant was legal. Powell v. State, 113 Nev. 41, 45 (1997) ("Significantly, the Court has also determined that a court is not compelled to exclude evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment if a police officer relied in good faith on a warrant. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984).").
- NRS 34.
- Watson v. Sheriff, Lyon County 93 Nev. 403 (1977) (Summary: "Defendant who was charged with burglary filed a pretrial petition for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the sufficiency of the complaint against him. The Ninth Judicial District Court, Lyon County, Noel E. Manoukian, J., denied the writ, and petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court held that the complaint was constitutionally insufficient in that it did not contain information which would enable a magistrate to make an independent judgment that probable cause existed for an arrest warrant.").
- NRS 179.255.
- NRS 179.245.