This week, our criminal lawyers discuss who has the authority to issue warrants in Maryland:
The Question: Can anyone besides a judge in Maryland be allowed to issue/grant a warrant?
Does anyone besides a judge have authority to issue a warrant?
The Answer: In certain instances, yes, someone other than a judge may issue a warrant. In the case of search warrants, only a judge can issue that type, but an arrest warrant is almost always granted by a commissioner (district court).
Despite popular belief, judges are not the only court official who can issue a warrant in Maryland.
Yes, judges have the authority to issue both an arrest and search warrant. The bench is the highest position in the judicial branch of our government, so they hold the most control. Since they may be busy with trials or hearings, a commissioner removes some of the burdens and has the power to issue arrest warrants.
The Chief Judge of the District Court of Maryland appoints commissioners. They are responsible for reviewing the statement of charges to determine if probable cause exists for arrest, conducting initial hearings on arrested individuals, and determining eligibility for a public defender.
Pretty much anything to do with an arrest is a commissioner’s domain, so they have been given authority to issue warrants for arrest. Plus, commissioners are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and judges are not. With arrests happening at any given time, it makes sense a commissioner can issue the warrant to do that.
Judges are the strict issuer of search warrants because of a Supreme Court ruling in 1971 that said a search warrant could only be issued by an unbiased and neutral judge or magistrate capable of determining whether probable cause exists. Officers must show the judge probable cause exists to believe a search is “warranted.”
So, there you have it, another official besides a judge capable of issuing arrest warrants in Maryland.
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Our automatic disclaimer: We’re lawyers, but not necessarily your lawyer, and do not represent the individual who asked this question. We’re providing this information for general educational purposes based on the publicly available information provided by the anonymous Internet user. Any number of details may change how this individual’s attorney may pursue this legal situation, differently from how we suppose above. If you have a similar question, then you should consult with a lawyer about your specific situation to get a “real” response!