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A search warrant is a
court order A court order is an official proclamation by a judge (or panel of judges) that defines the legal relationships between the parties to a Hearing (law), hearing, a lawsuit, trial, an appeal or other court proceedings. Such ruling requires or author ...
that a
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In , a ' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both and powers. In other parts of t ...
or
judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, panel of judges. A judge hears all the witnesses and any other Evidence (law), evidence presented by the barristers or so ...

judge
issues to authorize
law enforcement File:CBP female officers going aboard a ship.jpg, upU.S. Customs and Border Protection officers boarding a ship 'Law enforcement'' is the activity of some members of government who act in an organized manner to enforce the law by discovering, dete ...

law enforcement
officers to conduct a
search Searching or search may refer to: Computing technology * Search algorithm In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical foundations of information, algorithms and the architectures of its computation as well as practi ...
of a person, location, or vehicle for
evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field. In epistemology, evidence ...

evidence
of a
crime In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Crime, definitions of", in ...

crime
and to confiscate any evidence they find. In most countries, a search warrant cannot be issued in aid of civil process. Jurisdictions that respect the
rule of law The rule of law is defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal historical dictionary of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language ...

rule of law
and a right to privacy constrain police powers, and typically require search warrants or an equivalent procedure for searches police conducted in the course of a
criminal investigation Criminal investigation is an applied science that involves the study of facts that are then used to inform criminal trials. A complete criminal investigation can include Search and seizure, searching, interviews, interrogations, Evidence (law), e ...
. The laws usually make an exception for
hot pursuit Hot pursuit (also known as fresh or immediate pursuit) refers to the urgent and direct pursuit of a criminal suspect by law enforcement officers, or by belligerents under international rules of engagement for military forces. Such a situation gr ...
: a
police officer officer in Hamburg en, Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central European Time, CET , utc_offset1 = +1 , timezone1_DST = Central European Summer Time, CEST , utc_offset1_DST ...

police officer
following a criminal who has fled the scene of a crime has the right to enter a property where the criminal has sought shelter. The necessity for a search warrant and its abilities vary from country to country. In certain
authoritarian Authoritarianism is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a mont ...
nations, police officers may be allowed to search individuals and property without having to obtain
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, govern ...

court
permission or provide justification for their actions.


United Kingdom

In
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
, a local
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In , a ' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both and powers. In other parts of t ...

magistrate
issues search warrants, which require that a
constable A constable is a person holding a particular office, most commonly in criminal law enforcement. The office of constable can vary significantly in different jurisdictions. A constable is commonly the rank of an officer within the police. Other peop ...

constable
provide evidence that supports the warrant application. Under Section 18(5)a of
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) (1984 c. 60) is an Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliam ...
, a constable can conduct a search immediately without an inspector's authorisation. This subsection allows a constable to search the home of a suspect(s) under arrest in their presence before they take the suspect to a police station (or other custody location). Under Section 32 of
Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) (1984 c. 60) is an Act of Parliament Acts of parliament, sometimes referred to as primary legislation, are texts of law passed by the Legislature, legislative body of a jurisdiction (often a parliam ...
, a constable who arrests a person who is on their own property or has just left their premises, may immediately search both the suspect and the immediate area. In
Scotland Scotland ( sco, Scotland, gd, Alba ) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Tele ...

Scotland
, a country operating on the distinct legal system of
Scots law Scots law () is the List of country legal systems, legal system of Scotland. It is a hybrid or mixed legal system containing Civil law (legal system), civil law and common law elements, that traces its roots to a number of different historical ...
compared to England and Wales – the restrictions governing the use and execution of search warrants are set out under Part XIII under the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. Search warrants must be signed by a
Sheriff A sheriff is a government official, with varying duties, existing in some countries with historical ties to England where the office originated. There is an analogous although independently developed office in Iceland that is commonly translated ...
after a petition from police. Gas company officials may enter a home to inspect, repair, or replace
gas meter A gas meter is a specialized flow meter, used to measure the volume of fuel gas Fuel gas is any one of a number of fuels that under ordinary conditions are gaseous. Many fuel gases are composed of hydrocarbons (such as methane or propane ...

gas meter
s by obtaining a warrant.


Canada

To get a warrant, police must present a judge with an ITO (information to obtain) form that contains reasonable and probable grounds to believe an offence has been or is being committed and that the authorization sought will afford evidence of that offence. This hearing is , meaning only the crown is present. This fact obliges the police to include any known facts that hurt their application. After a search the occupants have a copy of the warrant and may get hold of the ITO through crown disclosure if the occupant(s) are charged. There are numerous different warrant procedures in the
Criminal Code A criminal code (or penal code) is a document that compiles all, or a significant amount of, a particular jurisdiction's criminal law Criminal law is the body of law that relates to crime. It proscribes conduct perceived as threatening, ha ...
, some have specific requirements such as being served during daytime or having a named supervising officer present in the case of a home search. If these (see link) requirements are not met by the police the evidence found may become inadmissible against the accused at trial.


United States

Under the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute t ...
, most police searches require a search warrant based on
probable cause In United States criminal law Responsibility for criminal law and criminal justice in the United States is shared between the State governments of the United States, states and the Federal government of the United States, federal government. So ...
, although there are exceptions. In the absence of valid consent or an exception to the warrant requirement, whether for purposes of effecting a search or an arrest, police entry in an individual's home always requires a warrant. The probable cause standard for obtaining a search warrant is lower than the quantum of proof required for a later criminal conviction, which requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the Fourth Amendment, search warrants must be reasonable and specific. This means that a search warrant must reasonably identify the items to be searched for and the place where law enforcement officials are authorized to search for those items. Unless an exception to the warrant requirement applies, the search of other buildings or areas of a building, persons or vehicles, or the search for additional items that do not reasonably fall under the original warrant, will normally require additional search warrants. To obtain a search warrant, an officer must prove to a
magistrate The term magistrate is used in a variety of systems of governments and laws to refer to a civilian officer who administers the law. In , a ' was one of the highest ranking government officers, and possessed both and powers. In other parts of t ...
or
judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, panel of judges. A judge hears all the witnesses and any other Evidence (law), evidence presented by the barristers or s ...
that probable cause exists for the proposed search, based upon direct information (i.e., the officer's personal observation) or other reliable information. An application for a search warrant will often rely upon hearsay information, such as information obtained from a confidential
informant Two page totally confidential, direct and immediate letter from the Iranian Minister of Finance to the Minister of Foreign Affairs ( Hossein Fatemi) about creating a foreign information network for controlling smuggling, 15 December 1952 An infor ...
, as long as probable cause exists based on the
totality of the circumstances In the law, the totality of the circumstances test refers to a method of analysis where decisions are based on all available information rather than bright-line rule In United States constitutional law United States constitutional law is the bo ...
. Police can seize both property and persons under a search warrant. The rationale is that evidence police collect without a search warrant may not be sufficient to convict, but may be sufficient to suggest that a warrant would allow police to find enough evidence to convict. The issue of federal warrants is determined under
Title 18 of the United States Code Title 18 of the United States Code The Code of Laws of the United States of America (variously abbreviated to Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, U.S. Code, U.S.C., or USC) is the official compilation and Codification (la ...
. The law has been restated and extended under Rule 41 of the
Federal Rules of Criminal ProcedureThe Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are the procedural rules that govern how federal criminal In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Stat ...
. Federal search warrants may be prepared on Form AO 93, Search and Seizure Warrant. Although the laws are broadly similar, each state has its own laws and rules of procedure governing the issuance of warrants. Search warrants are normally available to the public. On the other hand, they may be sealed if they contain sensitive information.


Exceptions

Certain searches do not require a search warrant. For example, * Consent: a warrant is not required when a person in control of the object or property gives
consent Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another. It is a term of common speech, with specific definitions as used in such fields as the law, medicine, research, and sexual relationships. Consent as under ...

consent
for the search. *
Hot pursuit Hot pursuit (also known as fresh or immediate pursuit) refers to the urgent and direct pursuit of a criminal suspect by law enforcement officers, or by belligerents under international rules of engagement for military forces. Such a situation gr ...
of a
felon A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness, whereas a misdemeanor A misdemeanor (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the se ...
(to prevent a felon's escape or ability to harm others); * Imminent
destruction of evidenceTampering with evidence, or evidence tampering, is an act in which a person alters, conceals, falsifies, or destroys evidence Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion, because evident things are undoubted. The ...
: where evidence might be destroyed before a warrant can be properly obtained; * Emergency searches: such as when someone is heard screaming, yelling, or calling for help inside a dwelling; or *Search incident to arrest (to mitigate the risk of harm to the arresting officers specifically). * Public safety: a warrantless search may be permissible in an emergency situation where the public is in danger. * Plain view: evidence is in the plain view of law enforcement officers, from a lawful vantage point (with similar exceptions that include plain smell, where the officer detects an odor that clearly indicates the presence of contraband or criminal activity). In a plain view case, the officer is legitimately on the premises, his observation is from a legitimate vantage point, and it is immediately obvious that the evidence is contraband. The plain view rule applies, for example, when the officer has pulled the suspect over for a seat belt violation and sees a
syringe A syringe is a simple reciprocating pump consisting of a plunger (though in modern syringes, it is actually a piston) that fits tightly within a cylindrical tube called a barrel. The plunger can be linearly pulled and pushed along the inside ...

syringe
on the passenger seat.


Protective sweep

If the subject is arrested in a home or vehicle, police may perform a protective search to make sure that there are no weapons within the vicinity. For example, they may search for weapons in the room where they arrested the subject of a warrant, and conduct a "protective sweep" of the premises if they reasonably suspect that other individuals may be hiding.


Rental properties and hotel rooms

With rented property, a
landlord A landlord is the owner of a house A house is a single-unit residential building A building, or edifice, is a structure with a roof and walls standing more or less permanently in one place, such as a house or factory. Buildings come in a ...
may refuse to allow law enforcement to search a tenant's apartment without a search warrant, and police must obtain a warrant under the same guidelines as if the tenant were the owner of the property. People who are occupying rooms at hotels or motels have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their rooms. However, a warrantless search may be possible if the hotel guest has property in their room a considerable period of time after the scheduled check-out time.


Motor vehicle exception

As first established by '' Carroll v. United States'', police are allowed to search a vehicle without a search warrant when they have probable cause to believe that
evidence Evidence for a proposition is what supports this proposition. It is usually understood as an indication that the supported proposition is true. What role evidence plays and how it is conceived varies from field to field. In epistemology, evidence ...

evidence
or
contraband Contraband (from Medieval French ''contrebande'' "smuggling") refers to any item that, relating to its nature, is illegal to be possessed or sold. It is used for goods that by their nature are considered too dangerous or offensive in the eyes of ...

contraband
is located in a vehicle. When police arrest an individual shortly after the individual has exited a vehicle, the police may conduct a full search of the suspect's person, any area within that person's immediate reach, and the passenger compartment of the recently occupied vehicle for weapons or any other contraband. However, '' Arizona v. Gant'' limits such searches to circumstances where the arrested person could have accessed the vehicle, or when the vehicle could contain evidence of the crime the person is arrested for. As per '' Collins v. Virginia'', the exception does not apply when the vehicle is within the home or
curtilage In common law, the curtilage of a house A house is a single-unit residential building, which may range in complexity from a rudimentary hut to a complex structure of wood, masonry, concrete or other material, outfitted with plumbing, electric ...
of the home of its owner.


Border search exception

Under The Border Search Exception custom and immigration officers are not required to have a warrant or
probable cause In United States criminal law Responsibility for criminal law and criminal justice in the United States is shared between the State governments of the United States, states and the Federal government of the United States, federal government. So ...
to conduct
searches and seizures Search and seizure is a procedure used in many Civil law (legal system), civil law and common law legal systems by which police or other authorities and their agents, who, suspecting that a crime has been committed, commence a search of a person's ...
at
international borders Borders are geography, geographic boundaries of political geography, political entities or legal jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated states, and other subnational entity, subnational entities. Bord ...
and their functional equivalents. This doctrine is not actually an exception to the Fourth Amendment, but rather to the Amendment's requirement for a warrant or probable cause. Balanced against the sovereign's interests at the border are the Fourth Amendment rights of entrants. Not only is the expectation of privacy less at the border than in the interior, the Fourth Amendment balance between the interests of the Government and the privacy right of the individual is also struck much more favorably to the Government at the border. This balance at international borders means that routine searches are "reasonable" there, and therefore do not violate the Fourth Amendment's
proscription '' The Proscribed Royalist, 1651'', painted by John Everett Millais c. 1853, in which a Puritan woman hides a fleeing Royalist proscript in the hollow of a tree Proscription ( la, proscriptio) is, in current usage, a 'decree of condemnation to ...
against "unreasonable searches and seizures".


Delayed notice

A sneak and peek search warrant (officially called a delayed notice warrant and also a covert entry search warrant or a surreptitious entry search warrant) is a search warrant authorizing the law enforcement officers executing it to effect physical entry into private premises without the owner's or the occupant's permission or knowledge and to clandestinely search the premises.


Gag orders

In California, the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act mandates that in certain cases concerning electronic search warrants that the court issue
gag order A gag order (also known as a gagging order or suppression order) is an order, typically a legal order by a court or government, restricting information or comment from being made public or passed onto any unauthorized third party. The phrase may s ...
s " ..prohibiting any party providing information from notifying any other party that information has been sought ...See the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Sec. 1, codified at ("(b)(1) When a warrant is sought or electronic information is obtained in an emergency under Section 1546.1, the government entity may submit a request supported by a sworn affidavit for an order delaying notification and prohibiting any party providing information from notifying any other party that information has been sought. The court shall issue the order ...)


See also

*
Arrest warrant An arrest warrant is a warrant issued by a judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, disci ...
* National Security Letter *
No-knock warrant In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washing ...
, to enter a property without occupant notification *
Parallel construction Parallel construction is a law enforcement process of building a parallel, or separate, evidentiary basis for a criminal investigation in order to conceal how an investigation actually began. In the US, a particular form is evidence launderin ...
– the untruthful description of the origins of evidence, to avoid laws about search or otherwise *
Police The police are a constituted body of persons A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic by Logical consequence, drawing con ...

Police
* Reverse search warrant * Sneak and peek warrant, to clandestinely look inside a property *
Search and seizure Search and seizure is a procedure used in many civil law and common law legal systems by which police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted body of Law enforcement officer, persons empowered by a State (polity), state, ...
* Sugar bowl (legal maxim) *
Writ of Assistance A writ of assistance is a written order (a writ In common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being sta ...


Notes and references

{{DEFAULTSORT:Search Warrant Warrants Law enforcement terminology Searches and seizures