What police can do: Warrant powers explained

Last week, a video emerged on social media showing family members confronting police officers attempting to execute a search warrant at their home. On Wednesday, Senior Superintendent John Frederick of the Court and Process Branch explained the execution of warrants. This is what you need to know.

 Warrants fall into five main categories:

 * Warrants that force a person’s attendance before a court.  

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* Warrants that are issued for non – payment of monies owing to the court.

* Warrants that are issued to arrest and convey persons to serve a custodial sentence.

* Warrants issued for non – payment to maintenance/affiliation orders.

*  Search Warrants.  

Warrants in the categories mentioned can be executed at any place and any time. The warrants need not be in the possession of the arresting officer but the person must be told the reason for the arrest and the warrant read to the prisoner as soon as practicable. Reasonable force can be used to enter to execute these warrants but the warrant must be in the possession of the arresting officer. Warrants under the first category are: 

(1) First Instance Warrants and Warrants of Arrest (Station Warrants for defendants): Where a Magistrate or Justice of the Peace is satisfied based on the information he/she receives on oath may issue a warrant in the first instance for the apprehension of the person against whom the complaint is made per Section 45 of Summary Courts Act 4:20. 

 The defendant is cautioned under Rule 3 of the Judges Rules and a note made of the answer given. The prisoner has to be processed i.e.:  formally charged; served with the notice; fingerprinted and photographed. 

(2) First instance warrant for witnesses: These warrants are issued by a Magistrate who is satisfied that in the first instance by proof upon oath that a person is likely to give material evidence either for the prosecution or the defence and that person will not attend court without being compelled to do so, may issue a warrant for the apprehension of such person per Section 49 of Summary Courts Act 4:20. 

(3) High Court Bench Warrants for both accused and witnesses: These warrants are issued for accused and witnesses who have previously attended court and informed when to return or have been subpoenaed to do so and failed to attend court. These warrants are issued in duplicate. On execution, the original of the warrant is to be taken with the prisoner to the state prison or wherever the instructions on the warrant says the person is to be taken, and the duplicate is to be taken to the registrar at the High Court so that the court would be aware that the person named on the warrant was arrested.

(4) Magistrate court bench warrants for both defendants and witnesses:  These warrants are issued for defendants and witnesses who have previously attended court and informed when to return or have been summoned to do so and failed to attend court per Section 44 and 48 of Summary Courts Act 4:20. 

Warrants under the second category are: 

Time Allowed Commitment (TAC)/Distress Warrants. These warrants are issued for a person who has been convicted for an offence and ordered to pay monies by the court (in matters other than affiliation/maintenance) and have been given time to pay to which he has defaulted in his payment. When this occurs a TAC warrant is issued for the arrest of the defendant or a distress warrant is issued.

Warrants under the third category, Committal Warrants: These warrants are issued to arrest and convey an accused and/or defendant to serve a custodial sentence. These warrants are issued for persons who are sentenced in absentia when they fail to attend court for sentencing or who were tried and sentenced in absentia. On arrest the person must be taken to the prison to begin the custodial sentence. On arrest the warrant must be read to the person.  

Affiliation/Maintenance warrants: These warrants are issued for persons who disobey court orders in respect to Child/Spouse Support. These warrants are of two types:  1. Warrants for disobedience to order 2. Warrants of commitment. Warrants for disobedience to orders are issued when the person for whom the order is made against is in arrears of payment for four weeks or more.  The warrant can be executed at any time.  On arrest the warrant is read to the defaulter, if he/she is willing to pay the money the defaulter must be taken to the court of issue along with the warrant for payment to be made. If the defaulter is unable to pay or have part of the money, he/she must be taken before a magistrate. If arrested out of the magisterial district the defaulter would be remanded to the court where the order was made.  

If arrested in the magisterial district where the order was made the defaulter would be taken before a magistrate where he/she would be given one of four options: (1) Pay all the arrears forthwith. (2) Pay part of the arrears and be given time to pay the remainder. (3) Given time to pay all the arrears (4) Given the opportunity to contest the matter. 

If after having been given time to pay the arrears the defaulter fails to do so. The court then issues a commitment warrant, which is similar to the TAC warrant. The warrant gives the defaulter the option to pay all the outstanding monies or go to prison. 

Issue of a search warrant 

A Magistrate or Justice of the Peace may issue a search warrant to search the premises of a person where a police officer satisfies the Magistrate or Justice of the Peace that he has reasonable cause to suspect that grounds exist to justify the issuance of a warrant.  These grounds must be sworn on oath. 

The search warrant must be in the possession of the officer who is required to read the warrant to the occupant/occupants of the premises. At the conclusion of the search the warrant is backed or certified and must include the date, time, place, occupants present and the names of the police officers directly involved in the search and anything related to the warrant or other breach that has been found.  Entry may be gained by using force if the occupant refuses to permit entry voluntarily. 

Source: Trinidad Express http://www.trinidadexpress.com/20171115/news/what-police-can-do-warrant-powers-explained

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