What is a Ramey Warrant? How Does it Differ from a Regular Arrest Warrant?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Sep 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

judge issuing warrant

An arrest warrant is normally issued at the same time formal charges are filed (Penal Code 813). A Ramey arrest warrant is issued WITHOUT the filing of charges. To obtain a Ramey warrant a police officer submits a declaration of probable cause to a magistrate. If the magistrate is satisfied that probable cause to arrest exists, he or she issues a Ramey warrant (Penal Code 817).

Probable cause means enough evidence to make a reasonable person believe that the suspect committed, or is committing, a crime.

Ramey warrants are often requested on weekends or after business hours. The procedure allows police to obtain an arrest warrant without waiting for charges to be filed. A speedy arrest can sometimes lead to suspect confessions, police lineups, and additional evidence.

IMPORTANT: To issue a Ramey warrant, a magistrate must determine there is probable cause to arrest. The process cannot be used to obtain probable cause to file charges. (See Goodwin v. Superior Court (2001) 90 Cal.App.4th 215).

How Does a Ramey Warrant Differ from a Regular Arrest Warrant?

Police do not need an arrest warrant to arrest someone in a public place (Penal Code 836). The officer must have probable cause to believe that:

  • the person has committed a public offense in the officer's presence, OR
  • the person committed a felony, although not in the officer's presence.

An arrest warrant is required in the following instances:

  • to make an arrest in a house or residence (with some exceptions),
  • to arrest for most misdemeanors that occurred outside the officer's presence,
  • to arrest for most offenses not committed within the political subdivision that employs the arresting officer.

California law allows a magistrate to issue an arrest warrant when:

  1. a criminal complaint is filed (Penal Code 813),
  2. an indicted person fails to appear for arraignment (Penal Code 945 and 979), or
  3. before the filing of criminal charges if a declaration of probable cause is made by police (Ramey warrant).

A declaration of probable cause must set forth the facts on which probable cause is based. The magistrate must be satisfied that:

  • a crime has been committed, and
  • that the accused committed it.

Please note that an arrest can also be made without a warrant in certain domestic violence and concealed weapon situations [See Penal Code 836(d) and 836(e)].

Why Might Police Want to Get a Ramey Warrant?

1. TIMING. Ramey warrants are often requested and processed on weekends or after regular business hours. Police may not want to wait for a prosecutor to file a case. The procedure allows police to go straight to a magistrate for a warrant.

2. TO ARREST IN A RESIDENCE. Police need a warrant to arrest someone in their home (with exceptions).

3. TO STRENGTHEN THE CASE. Police may believe that important evidence will be obtained through speedy suspect questioning, lineups, and other investigation.

Once arrested, a suspect must be brought in front of a judge within 48 hours (excluding Sundays & holidays). If formal charges are not filed, the person must be released. (Penal Code 825).

What if Police Have an Arrest Warrant but the Suspect Won't Open the Door?

Penal Code 844 is California's Knock and Announce Rule. It authorizes an officer with an arrest warrant to break open the door or window under certain circumstances. (People v. Superior Court (1970) 5 Cal. App. 3d 109).

Penal Code 844 states that a peace officer may break open the door or window of the house after:

  • demanding admittance, and
  • explaining the purpose for which admittance is desired.

Further, police may seek no-knock authorization from a magistrate if there is evidence that Knock-Notice would:

  • be dangerous or futile,
  • result in the destruction of evidence, OR
  • compromise the investigation.

If Police Have an Arrest Warrant Can They Enter a Third Party's Residence?

No. If police believe that a suspect is in the home of a friend, relative, or other party, they must obtain a search warrant. Even if they already have an arrest warrant. Such a warrant is called a Steagald search warrant (See Steagald v U.S. (1981) 451 US 204).

The warrant requirements do not apply to public places. The following are not considered public places:

  • hotel and motel rooms,
  • rented rooms in a boarding house, and
  • business premises not open or visible to the public.

Please note that the warrant requirements may also apply to motor homes or houseboats. One factor to consider is if their setting indicates use as a home and not for transportation.

Do Police Need an Arrest Warrant in an Emergency Situation?

Police do not need an arrest warrant if there are “exigent circumstances.” Exigent circumstances are defined as:

  • an emergency situation requiring swift action,
  • to prevent imminent danger to life or property, OR
  • to prevent the imminent escape of a suspect or destruction of evidence.

The following factors are used in determining whether exigent circumstances to arrest exist:

  • the gravity of the offense involved,
  • whether the subject is armed, AND
  • the likelihood that the suspect will escape if not promptly arrested.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.


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