What is a Warrant of Apprehension?

Any police officer, physician, spouse, blood relative, guardian or court official may petition in writing any district court or any division of the juvenile court department for an order of commitment of a person whom he has reason to believe is an alcoholic or substance abuser. Upon receipt of a petition for an order of commitment of a person and any sworn statements the court may request from the petitioner, the court shall immediately schedule a hearing on the petition and shall cause a summons and a copy of the application to be served upon the person in the manner provided by section twenty-five of chapter two hundred and seventy-six. In the event of the person’s failure to appear at the time summoned, the court may issue a warrant for the person’s arrest. Upon presentation of such a petition, if there are reasonable grounds to believe that such person will not appear and that any further delay in the proceedings would present an immediate danger to the physical well-being of the respondent, said court may issue a warrant for the apprehension and appearance of such person before it. No arrest shall be made on such warrant unless the person may be presented immediately before a judge of the district court. The person shall have the right to be represented by legal counsel and may present independent expert or other testimony. If the court finds the person indigent, it shall immediately appoint counsel. The court shall order examination by a qualified physician or a qualified psychologist.

If, after a hearing and based upon competent testimony, which shall include, but not be limited to, medical testimony, the court finds that such person is an alcoholic or substance abuser and there is a likelihood of serious harm as a result of the person’s alcoholism or substance abuse, the court may order such person to be committed for a period not to exceed 90 days……… Read more


The Billerica Police Department has performed about 25 of these Warrant of Apprehensions since January 1, 2012. Most of them were the result of family members petitioning the court on behalf of relatives that are victims of severe substance abuse where there is a likelihood of serious harm. Because substance abusers are far more likely to be involved in property crimes a warrant of apprehension can address both the addiction problem as well as criminal activity that stems from that abuse.

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