I've been watching a lot of episodes of the TV series Cops lately. A common scenario in this show is that when the police catch somebody who ran from them and ask why they ran they get the answer that the person in question had a warrant on him/her.

If somebody has a warrant on them, can't the police just go to their house and pick them up already? Or are all these people homeless/hiding from the law?

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    A lot of small town departments down here are just understaffed/lazy and have hundreds of outstanding warrants at a time Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 8:43

2 Answers 2


Seeking out every person with a warrant would take more staff-time and resources than many areas can afford. As such, only the most serious warrants are actively sought out.

Others are either passively tracked (officers have a description or image, so that during normal duties, they would recognise such persons) or only heeded if a check of a person already detained shows one (of the warrant is very minor).

As well as this, many of the people with "mid-range" warrants will make efforts to avoid police, such as by moving frequently; not reporting address details; staying with various friends or family, at their homes or businesses; being mobile as much as possible in public areas where few law enforcement personnel are likely to be present, let alone likely to recognise them as subject to outstanding warrants.


Warrants can be issued for failure to appear in court for even the most trivial infraction. If you're interested in reading here's an article that describes some of the more extreme examples in the United States, including towns "where the number of outstanding arrest warrants can exceed the number of residents, sometimes several times over." It's literally not worth the cost for law enforcement to pick some people up.

It is not uncommon for police to release a person they have detained even after finding there are warrants for their arrest, if the warrants were issued by a court in another state.

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