Definition of Civil Warrant

Unlike felony warrants that are issued on behalf of the state, civil warrants are usually issued on behalf of an individual who submits a civil summons. Even though these warrants are served to defendants, they are usually not arrest warrants, and are brought by one party against another in matters of monetary judgment. There are several types of civil warrants, which can be issued by individual summons or court judgment.

Warrant in Debt

A warrant in debt is a civil summons filed by one individual against another, usually for the purpose of establishing a court date to plead a case involving monetary issues. This type of civil warrant is not an arrest warrant, and is the first procedure in wage garnishment cases. It specifically addresses monetary claims, however, as property claims are handled by warrants in detinue.

Warrant in Detinue

A warrant in detinue is another type of civil warrant. Instead of addressing issues of claims for money, which is done by the warrant in debt, the warrant in detinue addresses claims for property. This warrant is filed on behalf of individuals (plaintiffs) who seek judgments against defendants whom they claim to be illegally or wrongfully withholding property. Warrants in detinue also carry default judgments, which means that if a defendant does not appear before a judge at the scheduled time and date, the judge can make a judgment on the property in favor of the plaintiff, and a law enforcement officer can physically remove the defendant from the property.


Most civil warrants are filled by individuals, often without legal representation. In order to file a civil warrant or civil summons, you must go to your county clerk of courts office and fill out the paperwork for the warrant. You can find the location of the clerk of courts in the phone book. In some jurisdictions, civil warrant filing documents can be found on the court’s website.


Filing a civil warrant with the clerk of courts usually requires a small processing fee. The fee varies depending on the type of warrant filed and your location. Claims do not need to be filed by a lawyer, though in complex cases, it may be in a plaintiff’s best interest to seek representation. If a plaintiff seeks representation, they will incur both the processing fees and the lawyer’s hourly fees.

Bench Warrant in Civil Cases

While most civil warrants do not result in an arrest warrant, a judge can issue a bench warrant for a civil case. Bench warrants are issued on behalf of the court when an individual fails to appear in court. In a civil case, this usually occurs when a defendant or witness fails to appear after being issued a subpoena. If a bench warrant is issued, a law enforcement officer is authorized to arrest the individual named in the warrant.

Read More: Bench Warrant Penalties

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