The Law of Search Warrants. Where do the search & seizure rules come from?

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  • Slide 1
  • The Law of Search Warrants
  • Slide 2
  • Where do the search & seizure rules come from?
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  • Slide 4
  • 4th Amendment to U.S. Constitution: no “unreasonable” searches & seizures; warrants must be supported by probable cause on oath/affirmation & specifically describe what is to be searched & persons or things to be seized N.C. Constitution: no “general warrants”
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  • What Happens When The Law Isn’t Followed?
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  • 1)Evidence may not be admissible 2)Possibly civil & criminal penalties for officer 3)Rights are violated
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  • 1)Determine whether a warrant should issue 2)Determine the necessary facts & state them in the application 3)Write a description of what the officer will search for Five Skills to Acquire in This Session:
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  • 4) Write a description of who/what/where will be searched 5) Use proper search warrant procedure
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  • 1. Determine if Facts Justify Issuance of a Search Warrant  Must establish PC  Fair probability that the object of the search is in the place to be searched  More than reasonable suspicion; less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt
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  •  Consider all of the circumstances  Watch out for timeliness!  Can give a search warrant even if another magistrate has said no  Reliable hearsay is OK  Know rules about confidential & anonymous informants...
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  • Confidential Informants
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  • Confidential information can be enough for PC if you can establish (1) the informant’s credibility and/or the reliability of the information AND (2) the informant’s basis for the information
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  • Confidential information can be enough for PC if you can establish (1) the informant’s credibility and/or the reliability of the information AND (2) the informant’s basis for the information 
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  • Establishing credibility/reliability of information: “I’ve used this informant 3 times & got convictions each time” “I corroborated the info. in the following ways” “The informant admitted involvement in the crime”
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  • Confidential information can be enough for PC if you can establish (1) the informant’s credibility and/or the reliability of the information AND (2) the informant’s basis for the information 
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  • Establishing the basis for the information: Find out how the informant got the information : it must be more than rumor Examples: Informant saw drugs; informant overheard discussion about robbery
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  • Anonymous Informants  Rule: Anonymous information alone is not enough to establish PC  Can help to establish PC if corroborated with reliable information
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  • 2. Draw Out & State Facts that Establish Probable Cause  Think: who, what, where, when, why  If CI, establish reliability of informant/information & basis for knowledge
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  •  Don’t accept conclusions  No set rules for PC statement  Anticipatory warrants
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  • 3. Write a Description of the Property/Person Sought  Property/person must be identifiable  Want to prevent mistaken seizure of legal goods
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  •  Be descriptive!  The more common the property, the more detail needed
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  •  For illegal contraband, you need not be as detailed “Heroine” is O.K. Amount not needed for drugs
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  •  For people,  Give name & description;  If name unknown, give description
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  •  Search of crime scene Sample description: fingerprints, blood, fired & unfired bullets & casings, footwear impressions, trace hair & clothing fibers & any & all evidence that may relate to the suspected murder
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  • 4. Describe What is to Be Searched  Must describe what is to be searched  Want to avoid searching the wrong place/person
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  •  If it’s a premise (1) state possessor (2) give street # & description; (3) if an apartment, give apt. #; (4) if it’s a rural address, give directions; (5) separate warrant for separate premises
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  •  If it’s a person, include name & description
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  •  If it’s a vehicle, include model, make, year, color, license tag, etc.
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  •  If it’s other items, such as luggage, give description
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  •  Final rules:  Only complete a warrant for a place in your county  Don’t stop at “premises” if there’s PC to search elsewhere  If outbuildings are to be searched, list them
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  • 5. Search Warrant Procedure  Examine application  Put the applicant under oath/affirmation & examine about the facts
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  •  If there are additional facts (1) add them to the application, (2) tape-record testimony & file the recording w/warrant & application, or (3) reduce testimony to writing on a separate paper & file it w/warrant & application
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  •  If information won’t fit on the form, attach separate papers  Attach affidavits to the application
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  •  Determine whether there is PC  Check description of what is to be searched  Check description of property/person to be searched for  Get signatures  Complete the search warrant portion on other side  Put time and date
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  •  Original & 1 copy to the officer; file copy with clerk  Must execute w/in 48 hours  Officer leaves a copy at the premises; returns copy to clerk
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