A warrant is an official document giving the police (or someone else) the power to:
- arrest you
- search you, your vehicle, or your home
- take and keep your things found in a search
- put you in jail.
Warrants can be used for criminal and non-criminal matters (eg if you owe someone money).
If a warrant has been executed upon you, you should get legal advice.
When can I expect there might be a warrant?
In criminal law matters there are 2 common situations in which a warrant might be executed upon you:
- if you failed to attend court when required
- to search and seize property from your house, care, place of work etc.
If you were supposed to go to court and didn't appear on the specified court date then the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. The police can take you into custody. If you were on bail, you are in breach of your bail undertaking, and you can be charged with the offence of contempt for failing to appear in court unless you can “show cause” (ie had a good reason) for why you failed to appear. If you’re convicted of the offence, the penalty for this charge is usually a fine. However, if you’ve previously failed to appear in court, the penalty may be imprisonment.
If the magistrate fines you, they will usually give you time to pay the fine. If it’s not paid on time you may spend time in jail—this is called ‘in default’. The fine may also be sent to State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER). If you don’t follow their arrangements for paying the fine then there may be a warrant to send you to jail for the period the magistrate said was ‘in default’.
If you’re arrested for failing to appear, you will be brought before a court, and you’ll have to convince the court to grant you further bail. This can be difficult to do if you have previously failed to appear. If you’re refused bail, you may be remanded in custody until your court proceedings are finalised.
If the police think someone is breaking the law where you live or work they may get a search warrant allowing them to search these places and seize items. Police officers don’t always need a warrant to search you, your vehicle or your home—see Police searches.
Finding out about a warrant
To find out if there’s a warrant for your arrest contact the court where you were supposed to appear and ask if a warrant has been issued.
A lawyer can help find out if there is a warrant to arrest you or someone else—they can write to the Warrants Bureau to find out more information.
You can go to your local police station to find out if there is a warrant, but if a warrant has been issued then you’ll probably be arrested on the spot and taken into police custody.
If there’s a warrant for your arrest—get legal advice. Remember an interstate warrant can still apply in Queensland. See Extradition.
What do I do if the police come with a warrant?
- Read the warrant.
- Make sure it’s your name or address on the warrant.
- Try not to argue with the police (because you can be charged with the offence of obstructing police).
- Get legal advice.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if:
- you want to find out if a warrant has been issued for your arrest
- you were supposed to make an arrangement with SPER to pay a fine but you didn't, and you think there may be a warrant to take you to jail
- you have been made aware of an immediate execution of a search warrant
- the police have arrived with a warrant.
How to get legal advice
We may give legal advice about warrants. The following services may be able to give you legal help and advice.
Community legal centres may give free legal advice and information on criminal law issues. Contact them to find out if they can help.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation on criminal law matters.
If you’re charged with an offence, you should ask police prosecutions at the relevant court for a copy of your Queensland Police form 9 (QP9) — this is a written summary of the police version of why you were charged and what happened. You should get your QP9 before getting legal advice. You can get your QP9 from the police prosecutor on your first court date (the duty lawyer may be able to help you). If you can’t collect it on your first court date you’ll need to apply to police prosecutions for a copy. You’ll need to make a written request and show photo ID.
Who else can help?
These organisations may be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.
State Penalties Enforcement Registry (SPER) is responsible for the collection and enforcement of unpaid infringement notice fines, court ordered monetary fines and Offender Recovery orders issued in Queensland.
Queensland Police Service Headquarters investigates complaints about police misconduct and breaches of discipline. Internal complaints process is monitored by the Crime and Corruption Commission.
Crime and Corruption Commission investigates complaints about official misconduct, even where the original complaint has been made to Queensland Police. The organisation monitors the police internal complaints process and can take over investigations if necessary, but does not handle complaints about police misconduct directly.
Queensland Courts provides information about the:
- Supreme Court
- Court of Appeal
- District Court
- Magistrates Court
- Coroners Court
- Childrens Court of Queensland
- Land Court.
Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 6 April 2023
If you have a general question for Legal Aid Queensland, please use the general question form or call 1300 65 11 88, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.