Bouvier (1856) “A writ issued by a justice of the peace or other authorized officer, directed to a constable or other proper person, requiring him to arrest a person therein named, charged with committing some offence, and to bring him before that or some other justice of the peace.
A bench warrant is a process granted by a court authorizing a proper officer to apprehend and bring before it someone charged with some contempt, crime or misdemeanor.
A search warrant is a process issued by a competent court or officer authorizing an officer therein named or described, to examine a house or other place for the purpose of finding goods which it is alleged have been stolen.”
Warrants authorize court officials to arrest individuals or search their property. This example issued by a Jefferson County Justice of the Peace authorizes the arrest of three men in connection with a charge of assault on a man named John Gilliland. Notice that the warrant also includes a note to summon John Gilliland Jr. and T. Sturgeon, presumably witnesses to the assault.
Some warrants will instruct the executing officer to make a return of the action taken. This one does not, but Constable J. G. Walden has recorded the arrest and delivery of the three named suspects on the back of the warrant. Serving court documents was a fee-for-service endeavor, so this return is the legal proof that Walden was owed payment by the County Court.