Search Warrant Policies & Procedures


We generally have some idea of what a warrant is (a document that allows police to search and seize evidence or people). But what does it take to actually get a warrant?

Fourth Amendment Governs

  • The Fourth Amendment says no unreasonable searches and seizures are possible unless the police have a warrant supported by probable cause, and the officer's oath or affirmation that describes with particularity the persons or things to be searched or seized.

Probable Cause

  • Probable cause is facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe a crime was committed or is being committed. The police must have probable cause to get a warrant.

Oath or Affirmation

  • The police must swear, under penalty of perjury, the information is based on probable cause and is not being used to harass or otherwise subject a person to an unlawful search or seizure.

Particularity Requirement

  • The police must demonstrate the above requirements with specificity. It cannot vaguely acquire a warrant simply by listing something along the lines of "a man in a white car."

Administered by a Neutral Magistrate

  • The police must present this information to a neutral and detached magistrate. The magistrate must not be paid for specifically issuing the warrant and must not have any interest in issuing the warrant.

Suppression Hearing

  • If any of the elements are missing, a defendant can challenge the search or seizure in a suppression hearing. The prosecution will need to prove the elements existed or show some exception to the warrant requirement existed.


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