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Search Warrant Process - Preconceptions, Perceptions, Practices

NCJ Number
R VanDuizend; L P Sutton; C A Carter
Date Published
221 pages
This study presents a comprehensive profile of the search warrant review process in seven U.S. urban jurisdictions.
Although the sample of cities was not representative, it provided a sufficiently broad picture of the search warrant process to approximate this process in most U.S. metropolitan jurisdictions. Data on search warrant processes were obtained through direct observation of warrant review proceedings, analysis of archival records, and interviews with persons involved in the search warrant process. Analyzed records covered January 1 to June 30, 1980. Search warrants were sought in relatively few cases, but they were associated with a variety of offenses. Search warrants were infrequently rejected, and 'judge shopping' was practiced by search warrant applicants. Warrants were often based on unsworn hearsay from anonymous informants, and few of the warrants limited the search to specific areas of the residence. Search warrants were not routinely targeted for motions to suppress. Primary problems evidenced in the study are the infrequency with which search warrants are sought, the inadequacy of the review process, flawed systems for maintaining search warrant records, and failure to use the information available. These problems can be addressed by reducing the time and effort required to obtain warrants, by increasing the incentives for obtaining one, by screening warrant applications prior to judicial review, by clarifying warrant requirements, and by inhibiting judge shopping. An appendix summarizes and analyzes State statutory provisions for search warrants. Chapter notes.