A search warrant ordinarily refers to a court document, issued by a judge or magistrate pursuant to the demands of the Fourth Amendment, upon the request of a law enforcement officer and without affording other parties an opportunity to object to the issuance or execution of the warrant. A search warrant authorizes a search for evidence in connection with a criminal investigation. Officers seeking a warrant must present sworn statements establishing probable cause to believe that the requested search will result in the discovery of evidence of a crime.
Information to be included in search warrant application
- What criminal offense is being investigated (e.g., e-mail threats, murder, protection order violation).
- Specifically where the search will take place (e.g., describe the house, address).
- How you know it is there (e.g., trace Internet Protocol (IP) address, account names, billing information).
- Why is it relevant to the crime (e.g., instrumentality, repository, or target of the crime).
Executing the warrant
Additional considerations in the execution of a search warrant may include —
- Discovery of evidence outside the scope of the warrant
- — An additional warrant may be necessary or advisable to expand the scope of the original warrant.
- Reasonable accommodation
- — Minimization of disruption of business.
- — Consider the return of noncontraband seized data if commingled with evidence of a crime to accommodate a reasonable request.
If protections under the Fourth Amendment apply, then law enforcement must obtain a warrant unless an exception exists. Exceptions to securing a warrant include —
- “Probable cause” means “a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.” Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983).