A civil warrant in Nashville is a civil complaint issued by the local general sessions court. The general sessions court is a court of limited jurisdiction that hears civil and criminal cases. In Tennessee, the term “civil warrant” has the same meaning that “civil complaint” does in other jurisdictions. A civil warrant is not the same as a criminal warrant. A person will not be arrested because he has been served a civil warrant.
Failure to Respond to a Civil Warrant
If a person doesn't respond to a civil warrant, she will almost certainly lose the civil case. The party who is served in a civil case is called the defendant. A defendant is permitted but not required to file an Answer to a civil warrant. There is no required form for an Answer.
Read More: Definition of Civil Warrant
Who Files a Civil Warrant?
A plaintiff files a civil warrant with the clerk of the court. The term “civil warrant” also refers to the specific form the plaintiff must complete. The civil warrant is a two-sided form, and the plaintiff is required to complete both the front and back of the document. The civil court clerk requires the plaintiff to submit one original warrant and one copy for each defendant. No fee is charged to file a civil warrant.
A Trial Resolves the Case
The court will hold a trial regarding the concerns that the plaintiff presents. Both sides can call witnesses, and the plaintiff goes first. Each side has a right to ask questions of the other, and opposing parties can also question each other’s witnesses.
What Is a Criminal Warrant?
A criminal warrant is a warrant in a criminal case. An arrest warrant is a common type of criminal warrant. A judge signs an arrest warrant to allow a law enforcement officer to arrest the person named in the warrant. A bench warrant is another common type of criminal warrant. A judge issues a bench warrant when a person in a case fails to appear for a proceeding such as a trial. A judge can issue a bench warrant if you fail to appear or comply with an order in a civil case.
Who Serves Civil Warrants?
The server cannot be the plaintiff and must be 18 years or older. Often, the plaintiff hires a sheriff’s deputy for service. The Nashville/Davidson County Sheriff’s Office has a civil warrants division and a criminal warrants division. The sheriff’s deputy can serve a civil warrant and execute a criminal warrant.
What Is a Detainer Warrant?
A plaintiff files a detainer warrant in general sessions court to regain possession of real property from a defendant. A detainer warrant is commonly used in residential landlord-tenant eviction cases when a tenant has failed to pay rent. A detainer warrant has a 30-day limit, and the court date is usually set at least six days from the date of service.
Civil Warrants and Debt Collection Cases
A plaintiff who is a debt collector can file a civil warrant in a collections case. The purpose of the civil warrant is to bring the debtor defendant to court. The limit for general sessions court is $25,000 except in cases of detainer (eviction). In detainer cases, the court has unlimited original jurisdiction, including the jurisdiction to award an alternative money judgment.
Debtors Who Can’t Pay
A debtor who cannot pay may want to consider filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The statute of limitations on debt in Tennessee is six years. If a debtor has not paid a debt within that time, the creditor cannot collect the debt.
- Davidson County Sheriff's Office: Civil Warrants Division
- General Sessions Court, Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County: Civil Cases
- Tennessee State Courts: About General Sessions Courts
- Tennessee State Courts, Preliminary Proceedings, Rule 4: Arrest Warrant or Summons on a Complaint
- Nashville Police Department: Criminal Warrants Division
- Tennessee State Courts, Rule 4.03: Summons; Return
- Office of the Attorney General, State of Tennessee: Debt Collection
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.