Definition of a Search Warrant

Written by paul cartmell
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A search warrant allows law enforcement officers to search a specified place for evidence connected to a particular crime. The search warrant is used to restrict the ability of government officials to intrude on the lives of citizens.


A warrant is a formal written request usually issued by a judge ordering an individual or organisation to take some form of action, according to Cornell University Law School. Examples of warrants include search warrants and arrest warrants.


Law enforcement officers must gain a search warrant to conduct a search of an area thought to hold evidence of a crime.

Probable Cause

To obtain a search warrant, a law enforcement organisation must prove to a neutral judge that there is probable cause to believe a specific location, such as a home, place of business or vehicle, contains evidence related to a crime. According to the Utah State Courts, probable cause means upon that information provided, any reasonable person would believe a location holds evidence relating to a specific crime.


To gain a search warrant, law enforcement officers must present an oath or affidavit with information linking a location to a crime and a detailed description of the location to be searched.


Without a search warrant, law enforcement officers must obtain the consent of the individual owner to conduct a search of a location. Officers can conduct a search without a warrant under certain circumstances, such as when an officer witnesses a crime being committed.

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