An arrest warrant is, in many cases, the formal start of a criminal case against an individual. It is a sworn written recitation of enough “facts” of the case that demonstrate to a judge that there is probable cause to believe that a crime(s) has been committed and the at the defendant committed the alleged crime(s). 
In most cases, a police officer or federal agent presents the information in writing based upon his or her own investigation and information provided by other law enforcement officers with knowledge of the case. While the information may not be complete, and need not be at this stage, there must be sufficient information for the judge to find probable cause. Probable cause has been defined as information sufficient to warrant a prudent person’s belief that the person committed a crime.

If law enforcement has sufficient information that rises to the level of probable cause, the judge will issue (authorize) the arrest warrant. The warrant must state the person’s name, the offenses charged, command the person to be arrested and brought before a judge, and be signed by the judge. Once the police locate and arrest the person named on the arrest warrant, the person will be held until bail is set.

In the state system, the new bail procedures require that a person arrested on a warrant be held until he can be interviewed and a Public Safety Assessment can be completed (see our prior posting on New Jersey’s new bail system). In the federal system, the person must be brought before a magistrate-judge without unnecessary delay for a bail hearing. Prior to the bail hearing, Pretrial Services will interview the person and make a recommendation to the judge about the risk factors – risk of flight and danger to the community.

It is critical to have experienced criminal defense counsel involved as soon as possible to advocate both with the prosecutor and Pretrial Services on the client’s behalf to obtain the least restrictive bail as possible. A good, experienced criminal defense lawyer will have gathered the relevant information to present to Pretrial Services about the client’s work and family history, ties to the community, prior travel, location of passport and responsible parties who are willing to sign for the client’s release.

Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers aggressively defend organizations and individuals charged with complex federal and state crimes. Founder Robert G. Stahl is recognized as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the NY/NJ area for his skills, knowledge and success. To contact us to discuss your case, call 908.301.9001 for our NJ office and 212.755.3300 for our NYC office, or email us at