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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[1] 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).
  • 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 —


  1. “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).

See also[]