Rule 4. Arrest Warrant or Summons on a Complaint

(a) Issuance. If the complaint or one or more affidavits filed with the complaint establish probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it, the judge must issue an arrest warrant to an officer authorized to execute it. At the request of an attorney for the government, the judge must issue a summons, instead of a warrant, to a person authorized to serve it. A judge may issue more than one warrant or summons on the same complaint. If a defendant fails to appear in response to a summons, a judge may, and upon request of an attorney for the government must, issue a warrant.

(b) Form.

(1) Warrant. A warrant must:

(A) contain the defendant's name or, if it is unknown, a name or description by which the defendant can be identified with reasonable certainty;

(B) describe the offense charged in the complaint;

(C) command that the defendant be arrested and brought without unnecessary delay before a magistrate judge or, if none is reasonably available, before a state or local judicial officer; and

(D) be signed by a judge.

(2) Summons. A summons must be in the same form as a warrant except that it must require the defendant to appear before a magistrate judge at a stated time and place.

(c) Execution or Service, and Return.

(1) By Whom. Only a marshal or other authorized officer may execute a warrant. Any person authorized to serve a summons in a federal civil action may serve a summons.

(2) Location. A warrant may be executed, or a summons served, within the jurisdiction of the United States or anywhere else a federal statute authorizes an arrest.

(3) Manner.

(A) A warrant is executed by arresting the defendant. Upon arrest, an officer possessing the original or a duplicate original warrant must show it to the defendant. If the officer does not possess the warrant, the officer must inform the defendant of the warrant's existence and of the offense charged and, at the defendant's request, must show the original or a duplicate original warrant to the defendant as soon as possible.

(B) A summons is served on an individual defendant:

(i) by delivering a copy to the defendant personally; or

(ii) by leaving a copy at the defendant's residence or usual place of abode with a person of suitable age and discretion residing at that location and by mailing a copy to the defendant's last known address.

(C) A summons is served on an organization by delivering a copy to an officer, to a managing or general agent, or to another agent appointed or legally authorized to receive service of process. A copy must also be mailed to the organization's last known address within the district or to its principal place of business elsewhere in the United States.

(4) Return

(A) After executing a warrant, the officer must return it to the judge before whom the defendant is brought in accordance with Rule 5. The officer may do so by reliable electronic means. At the request of an attorney for the government, an unexecuted warrant must be brought back to and canceled by a magistrate judge or, if none is reasonably available, by a state or local judicial officer.

(B) The person to whom a summons was delivered for service must return it on or before the return day.

(C) At the request of an attorney for the government, a judge may deliver an unexecuted warrant, an unserved summons, or a copy of the warrant or summons to the marshal or other authorized person for execution or service.

(d) Warrant by Telephone or Other Reliable Electronic Means. In accordance with Rule 4.1, a magistrate judge may issue a warrant or summons based on information communicated by telephone or other reliable electronic means.

Notes

(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Apr. 24, 1972, eff. Oct. 1, 1972; Apr. 22, 1974, eff. Dec. 1, 1975; Pub. L. 94–64, §3(1)–(3), July 31, 1975, 89 Stat. 370; Mar. 9, 1987, eff. Aug. 1, 1987; Apr. 22, 1993, eff. Dec. 1, 1993; Apr. 29, 2002, eff. Dec. 1, 2002; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1944

Note to Subdivision (a). 1. The rule states the existing law relating to warrants issued by commissioner or other magistrate. United States Constitution, Amendment IV; 18 U.S.C. 591 [now 3041] (Arrest and removal for trial).

2. The provision for summons is new, although a summons has been customarily used against corporate defendants, 28 U.S.C. 377 [now 1651] (Power to issue writs); United States v. John Kelso Co., 86 F. 304 (N.D.Cal., 1898). See also, Albrecht v. United States, 273 U.S. 1, 8 (1927). The use of the summons in criminal cases is sanctioned by many States, among them Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and others. See A.L.I. Code of Criminal Procedure (1931), Commentaries to secs. 12, 13, and 14. The use of the summons is permitted in England by 11 & 12 Vict., c. 42, sec. 1 (1848). More general use of a summons in place of a warrant was recommended by the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, Report on Criminal Procedure (1931) 47. The Uniform Arrest Act, proposed by the Interstate Commission on Crime, provides for a summons. Warner, 28 Va.L.R. 315. See also, Medalie, 4 Lawyers Guild, R. 1, 6.

3. The provision for the issuance of additional warrants on the same complaint embodies the practice heretofore followed in some districts. It is desirable from a practical standpoint, since when a complaint names several defendants, it may be preferable to issue a separate warrant as to each in order to facilitate service and return, especially if the defendants are apprehended at different times and places. Berge, 42 Mich.L.R. 353, 356.

4. Failure to respond to a summons is not a contempt of court, but is ground for issuing a warrant.

Note to Subdivision (b). Compare Rule 9(b) and forms of warrant and summons, Appendix of Forms.

Note to Subdivision (c)(2). This rule and Rule 9(c)(1) modify the existing practice under which a warrant may be served only within the district in which it is issued. Mitchell v. Dexter, 244 F. 926 (C.C.A. 1st, 1917); Palmer v. Thompson, 20 App. D.C. 273 (1902); but see In re Christian, 82 F. 885 (C.C.W.D.Ark., 1897); 2 Op.Atty.Gen. 564. When a defendant is apprehended in a district other than that in which the prosecution has been instituted, this change will eliminate some of the steps that are at present followed: the issuance of a warrant in the district where the prosecution is pending; the return of the warrant non est inventus; the filing of a complaint on the basis of the warrant and its return in the district in which the defendant is found; and the issuance of another warrant in the latter district. The warrant originally issued will have efficacy throughout the United States and will constitute authority for arresting the defendant wherever found. Waite, 27 Jour. of Am. Judicature Soc. 101, 103. The change will not modify or affect the rights of the defendant as to removal. See Rule 40. The authority of the marshal to serve process is not limited to the district for which he is appointed, 28 U.S.C. 503 [now 569].

Note to Subdivision (c)(3). 1. The provision that the arresting officer need not have the warrant in his possession at the time of the arrest is rendered necessary by the fact that a fugitive may be discovered and apprehended by any one of many officers. It is obviously impossible for a warrant to be in the possession of every officer who is searching for a fugitive or who unexpectedly might find himself in a position to apprehend the fugitive. The rule sets forth the customary practice in such matters, which has the sanction of the courts. “It would be a strong proposition in an ordinary felony case to say that a fugitive from justice for whom a capias or warrant was outstanding could not be apprehended until the apprehending officer had physical possession of the capias or the warrant. If such were the law, criminals could circulate freely from one end of the land to the other, because they could always keep ahead of an officer with the warrant.” In re Kosopud (N.D. Ohio), 272 F. 330, 336. Waite, 27 Jour. of Am. Judicature Soc. 101, 103. The rule, however, safeguards the defendant's rights in such case.

2. Service of summons under the rule is substantially the same as in civil actions under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 4(d)(1) [28 U.S.C., Appendix].

Note to Subdivision (c)(4). Return of a warrant or summons to the commissioner or other officer is provided by 18 U.S.C. 603 [now 4084] (Writs; copy as jailer's authority). The return of all “copies of process” by the commissioner to the clerk of the court is provided by 18 U.S.C. 591 [now 3041]; and see Rule 5(c), infra.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966 Amendment

In Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480 (1958) it was held that to support the issuance of a warrant the complaint must contain in addition to a statement “of the essential facts constituting the offense” (Rule 3) a statement of the facts relied upon by the complainant to establish probable cause. The amendment permits the complainant to state the facts constituting probable cause in a separate affidavit in lieu of spelling them out in the complaint. See also Jaben v. United States, 381 U.S. 214 (1965).

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1972 Amendment

Throughout the rule the term “magistrate” is substituted for the term “commissioner.” Magistrate is defined in rule 54 to include a judge of the United States, a United States magistrate, and those state and local judicial officers specified in 18 U.S.C. §3041.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1974 Amendment

The amendments are designed to achieve several objectives: (1) to make explicit the fact that the determination of probable cause may be based upon hearsay evidence; (2) to make clear that probable cause is a prerequisite to the issuance of a summons; and (3) to give priority to the issuance of a summons rather than a warrant.

Subdivision (a) makes clear that the normal situation is to issue a summons.

Subdivision (b) provides for the issuance of an arrest warrant in lieu of or in addition to the issuance of a summons.

Subdivision (b)(1) restates the provision of the old rule mandating the issuance of a warrant when a defendant fails to appear in response to a summons.

Subdivision (b)(2) provides for the issuance of an arrest warrant rather than a summons whenever “a valid reason is shown” for the issuance of a warrant. The reason may be apparent from the face of the complaint or may be provided by the federal law enforcement officer or attorney for the government. See comparable provision in rule 9.

Subdivision (b)(3) deals with the situation in which conditions change after a summons has issued. It affords the government an opportunity to demonstrate the need for an arrest warrant. This may be done in the district in which the defendant is located if this is the convenient place to do so.

Subdivision (c) provides that a warrant or summons may issue on the basis of hearsay evidence. What constitutes probable cause is left to be dealt with on a case-to-case basis, taking account of the unlimited variations in source of information and in the opportunity of the informant to perceive accurately the factual data which he furnishes. See e.g., Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, 78 S.Ct. 1245, 2 L.Ed.2d 1503 (1958); Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 84 S.Ct. 1509, 12 L.Ed.2d 723 (1964); United States v. Ventresca, 380 U.S. 102, 85 S.Ct. 741, 13 L.Ed.2d 684 (1965); Jaben v. United States, 381 U.S. 214, 85 S.Ct. 1365, 14 L.Ed.2d 345 (1965); McCray v. Illinois, 386 U.S. 300, 87 S.Ct. 1056, 18 L.Ed.2d 62 (1967); Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410, 89 S.Ct. 584, 21 L.Ed.2d 637 (1969); United States v. Harris, 403 U.S. 573, 91 S.Ct. 2075, 29 L.Ed.2d 723 (1971); Note, The Informer's Tip as Probable Cause for Search or Arrest, 54 Cornell L.Rev. 958 (1969); C. Wright, Federal Practice and Procedure: Criminal §52 (1969, Supp. 1971); 8 S.J. Moore, Federal Practice 4.03 (2d ed. Cipes 1970, Supp. 1971).

Notes of Committee on the Judiciary, House Report No. 94–247; 1975 Amendment

A. Amendments Proposed by the Supreme Court. Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure deals with arrest procedures when a criminal complaint has been filed. It provides in pertinent part:

If it appears . . . that there is probable cause . . . a warrant for the arrest of the defendant shall issue to any officer authorized by law to execute it. Upon the request of the attorney for the government a summons instead of a warrant shall issue. [emphasis added]

The Supreme Court's amendments make a basic change in Rule 4. As proposed to be amended, Rule 4 gives priority to the issuance of a summons instead of an arrest warrant. In order for the magistrate to issue an arrest warrant, the attorney for the government must show a “valid reason.”

B. Committee Action. The Committee agrees with and approves the basic change in Rule 4. The decision to take a citizen into custody is a very important one with far-reaching consequences. That decision ought to be made by a neutral official (a magistrate) rather than by an interested party (the prosecutor).

It has been argued that undesirable consequences will result if this change is adopted—including an increase in the number of fugitives and the introduction of substantial delays in our system of criminal justice. [See testimony of Assistant Attorney General W. Vincent Rakestraw in Hearings on Proposed Amendments to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 93d Cong., 2d Sess., Serial No. 61, at 41–43 (1974) [hereinafter cited as “Hearing I”].] The Committee has carefully considered these arguments and finds them to be wanting. [The Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules has thoroughly analyzed the arguments raised by Mr. Rakestraw and convincingly demonstrated that the undesirable consequences predicted will not necessarily result. See Hearings on Proposed Amendments to Federal Rules on Proposed Amendments to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Before the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice of the House Committee on the Judiciary, 94th Congress, 1st Session, Serial No. 6, at 208–09 (1975) [hereinafter cited “Hearings II”].] The present rule permits the use of a summons in lieu of a warrant. The major difference between the present rule and the proposed rule is that the present rule vests the decision to issue a summons or a warrant in the prosecutor, while the proposed rule vests that decision in a judicial officer. Thus, the basic premise underlying the arguments against the proposed rule is the notion that only the prosecutor can be trusted to act responsibly in deciding whether a summons or a warrant shall issue.

The Committee rejects the notion that the federal judiciary cannot be trusted to exercise discretion wisely and in the public interest.

The Committee recast the language of Rule 4(b). No change in substance is intended. The phrase “valid reason” was changed to “good cause,” a phrase with which lawyers are more familiar. [Rule 4, both as proposed by the Supreme Court and as changed by the Committee, does not in any way authorize a magistrate to issue a summons or a warrant sua sponte, nor does it enlarge, limit or change in any way the law governing warrantless arrests.]

The Committee deleted two sentences from Rule 4(c). These sentences permitted a magistrate to question the complainant and other witnesses under oath and required the magistrate to keep a record or summary of such a proceeding. The Committee does not intend this change to discontinue or discourage the practice of having the complainant appear personally or the practice of making a record or summary of such an appearance. Rather, the Committee intended to leave Rule 4(c) neutral on this matter, neither encouraging nor discouraging these practices.

The Committee added a new section that provides that the determination of good cause for the issuance of a warrant in lieu of a summons shall not be grounds for a motion to suppress evidence. This provision does not apply when the issue is whether there was probable cause to believe an offense has been committed. This provision does not in any way expand or limit the so-called “exclusionary rule.”

Notes of Conference Committee, House Report No. 94–414; 1975 Amendment

Rule 4(e)(3) deals with the manner in which warrants and summonses may be served. The House version provides two methods for serving a summons: (1) personal service upon the defendant, or (2) service by leaving it with someone of suitable age at the defendant's dwelling and by mailing it to the defendant's last known address. The Senate version provides three methods: (1) personal service, (2) service by leaving it with someone of suitable age at the defendant's dwelling, or (3) service by mailing it to defendant's last known address.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1987 Amendment

The amendments are technical. No substantive change is intended.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1993 Amendment

The Rule is amended to conform to the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990 [P.L. 101–650, Title III, Section 321] which provides that each United States magistrate appointed under section 631 of title 28, United States Code, shall be known as a United States magistrate judge.

Committee Notes on Rules—2002 Amendment

The language of Rule 4 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Criminal Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic, except as noted below.

The first non-stylistic change is in Rule 4(a), which has been amended to provide an element of discretion in those situations when the defendant fails to respond to a summons. Under the current rule, the judge must in all cases issue an arrest warrant. The revised rule provides discretion to the judge to issue an arrest warrant if the attorney for the government does not request that an arrest warrant be issued for a failure to appear.

Current Rule 4(b), which refers to the fact that hearsay evidence may be used to support probable cause, has been deleted. That language was added to the rule in 1974, apparently to reflect emerging federal case law. See Advisory Committee Note to 1974 Amendments to Rule 4 (citing cases). A similar amendment was made to Rule 41 in 1972. In the intervening years, however, the case law has become perfectly clear on that proposition. Thus, the Committee believed that the reference to hearsay was no longer necessary. Furthermore, the limited reference to hearsay evidence was misleading to the extent that it might have suggested that other forms of inadmissible evidence could not be considered. For example, the rule made no reference to considering a defendant's prior criminal record, which clearly may be considered in deciding whether probable cause exists. See, e.g., Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160 (1949) (officer's knowledge of defendant's prior criminal activity). Rather than address that issue, or any other similar issues, the Committee believed that the matter was best addressed in Rule 1101(d)(3), Federal Rules of Evidence. That rule explicitly provides that the Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply to “preliminary examinations in criminal cases, . . . issuance of warrants for arrest, criminal summonses, and search warrants.” The Advisory Committee Note accompanying that rule recognizes that: “The nature of the proceedings makes application of the formal rules of evidence inappropriate and impracticable.” The Committee did not intend to make any substantive changes in practice by deleting the reference to hearsay evidence.

New Rule 4(b), which is currently Rule 4(c), addresses the form of an arrest warrant and a summons and includes two non-stylistic changes. First, Rule 4(b)(1)(C) mandates that the warrant require that the defendant be brought “without unnecessary delay” before a judge. The Committee believed that this was a more appropriate standard than the current requirement that the defendant be brought before the “nearest available” magistrate judge. This new language accurately reflects the thrust of the original rule, that time is of the essence and that the defendant should be brought with dispatch before a judicial officer in the district. Second, the revised rule states a preference that the defendant be brought before a federal judicial officer.

Rule 4(b)(2) has been amended to require that if a summons is issued, the defendant must appear before a magistrate judge. The current rule requires the appearance before a “magistrate,” which could include a state or local judicial officer. This change is consistent with the preference for requiring defendants to appear before federal judicial officers stated in revised Rule 4(b)(1).

Rule 4(c) (currently Rule 4(d)) includes three changes. First, current Rule 4(d)(2) states the traditional rule recognizing the territorial limits for executing warrants. Rule 4(c)(2) includes new language that reflects the recent enactment of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (Pub. L. No. 106–523, 114 Stat. 2488) that permits arrests of certain military and Department of Defense personnel overseas. See also 14 U.S.C. §89 (Coast Guard authority to effect arrests outside territorial limits of United States). Second, current Rule 4(d)(3) provides that the arresting officer is only required to inform the defendant of the offense charged and that a warrant exists if the officer does not have a copy of the warrant. As revised, Rule 4(c)(3)(A) explicitly requires the arresting officer in all instances to inform the defendant of the offense charged and of the fact that an arrest warrant exists. The new rule continues the current provision that the arresting officer need not have a copy of the warrant, but if the defendant requests to see it, the officer must show the warrant to the defendant as soon as possible. The rule does not attempt to define any particular time limits for showing the warrant to the defendant.

Third, Rule 4(c)(3)(C) is taken from former Rule 9(c)(1). That provision specifies the manner of serving a summons on an organization. The Committee believed that Rule 4 was the more appropriate location for general provisions addressing the mechanics of arrest warrants and summonses. Revised Rule 9 liberally cross-references the basic provisions appearing in Rule 4. Under the amended rule, in all cases in which a summons is being served on an organization, a copy of the summons must be mailed to the organization.

Fourth, a change is made in Rule 4(c)(4). Currently, Rule 4(d)(4) requires that an unexecuted warrant must be returned to the judicial officer or judge who issued it. As amended, Rule 4(c)(4)(A) provides that after a warrant is executed, the officer must return it to the judge before whom the defendant will appear under Rule 5. At the government's request, however, an unexecuted warrant must be canceled by a magistrate judge. The change recognizes the possibility that at the time the warrant is returned, the issuing judicial officer may not be available.

Committee Notes on Rules—2011 Amendment

Rule 4 is amended in three respects to make the arrest warrant process more efficient through the use of technology.

Subdivision (c). First, Rule 4(c)(3)(A) authorizes a law enforcement officer to retain a duplicate original arrest warrant, consistent with the change to subdivision (d), which permits a court to issue an arrest warrant electronically rather than by physical delivery. The duplicate original warrant may be used in lieu of the original warrant signed by the magistrate judge to satisfy the requirement that the defendant be shown the warrant at or soon after an arrest. Cf. Rule 4.1(b)(5) (providing for a duplicate original search warrant).

Second, consistent with the amendment to Rule 41(f), Rule
4(c)(4)(A) permits an officer to make a return of the arrest warrant electronically. Requiring an in-person return can be burdensome on law enforcement, particularly in large districts when the return can require a great deal of time and travel. In contrast, no interest of the accused is affected by allowing what is normally a ministerial act to be done electronically.

Subdivision (d). Rule 4(d) provides that a magistrate judge may issue an arrest warrant or summons based on information submitted electronically rather than in person. This change works in conjunction with the amendment to Rule 3, which permits a magistrate judge to consider a criminal complaint and accompanying documents that are submitted electronically. Subdivision (d) also incorporates the procedures for applying for and issuing electronic warrants set forth in Rule 4.1.

Changes Made to Proposed Amendment Released for Public Comment

No changes were made in the amendment as published.

Amendment by Public Law

1975 —Pub. L. 94–64 struck out subds. (a), (b), and (c) and inserted in lieu new subds. (a) and (b); redesignated subd. (d) as (c); and redesignated subd. (e) as (d) and amended par. (3) thereof generally.

Approval and Effective Date of Amendments Proposed April 22, 1974; Effective Date of 1975 Amendments

Section 2 of Pub. L. 94–64 provided that: “The amendments proposed by the United States Supreme Court to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure [adding rules 12.1, 12.2 and 29.1 and amending rules 4, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 20, 32, and 43 of these rules] which are embraced in the order of that Court on April 22, 1974, are approved except as otherwise provided in this Act and shall take effect on December 1, 1975. Except with respect to the amendment to Rule 11, insofar as it adds Rule 11(e)(6), which shall take effect on August 1, 1975, the amendments made by section 3 of this Act [to rules 4, 9, 11, 12, 12.1, 12.2, 15, 16, 17, 20, 32, and 43 of these rules] shall also take effect on December 1, 1975.”

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