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What Is a Federal Search Warrant?

Federal law enforcement officials obtain search warrants when they need to act quickly in a criminal investigation, or if they are concerned that sensitive materials they need may be moved, concealed, altered or destroyed.

The search warrant request is made by a federal law enforcement agency when officials conclude that information, often documents or electronic devices, related to a criminal investigation may be found in someone’s home, business, car or other property.

a search warrant is not in itself an indication or accusation of the subject’s guilt.

Nevertheless, the use of such an injunction indicates a sense of urgency of prosecution – and is used only when “it appears that the use of a subpoena, subpoena, solicitation, or other less intrusive alternative means to obtain the material will significantly reduce the availability of the material.” or endanger the usability of the sought materials,” said the law manualthe department’s official guide to criminal procedure.

Neither the Justice Department nor the FBI has the authority to act unilaterally. A federal judge or magistrate must approve the request, and lawyers often require very specific search restrictions to protect a person’s Fourth Amendment rights from unlawful search and seizure before a warrant is issued.

Law enforcement agencies must meet certain legal standards, which have been litigated for decades, before a judge can sign.

First, they must prove “probable cause,” evidence that the search is likely to find evidence of illegality; if the warrant contains no such evidence, the search is considered illegal under a 2004 precedent.

In addition, the courts have ruled that a search warrant must describe the location and nature of the search with “particularity” – to prevent agents from abusing a search warrant to conduct a search beyond the parameters of what was specifically requested. .

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