In the past I’ve talked about police searches, but I didn’t go into detail about the search warrant itself and so I thought some people might be interested in the process of obtaining a warrant as well as what the warrant can do.
I have already explained the circumstances in which police can search premises without the need for a warrant HERE and HERE but if these circumstances aren’t in play then you are going to need a warrant signed by the court.
The warrant is intended for the police to search for evidence relating only to the offence they are investigating. They cannot go on a fishing expedition. Though, if while they are searching for stolen rings, for instance, and in that drawer, they find evidence of an offence completely unrelated, like a huge stash of drugs, then they will and are legally able to seize it and deal with it. Because the original search was legal. In searching for stolen rings, they can search anywhere because rings are so small they can be stashed anywhere, the scope of the search is open. If they are searching for a 6-foot-tall stolen gold-edged mirror, then they wouldn’t be able to search the drawers as it’s not possible to hide the item in the drawers.
The police fill in the paperwork for the warrant at the police station and take it to the court with them where they then swear on a bible (or not if this is not for them) and then lay out the information for the magistrate/justice of the peace/Judge to decide if they will authorise it.
The warrant can encompass different criteria. You can enter one property for one search, or you can widen your criteria and request to search all properties owned by a specific individual. Or you can request to enter one property on a number of occasions or unlimited times.
The power of a warrant enables you to enter premises if the occupant has refused entry or is absent or if they are unoccupied. You can do this by force if necessary.
I have been asked about rapid entries. Those you see with the enforcer or otherwise known as the big red key, on the TV. This is if you don’t want to lose evidence. Not all searches need to be conducted this way. On the department I was last on, we knocked and introduced ourselves, even with a warrant. The warrant prevented them turning us away and destroying evidence, but it was unlikely they would be expecting us and wouldn’t think a morning knock on the door was the police, so we could knock and then go in and control the situation. Always consider if this is possible. Or, instead of using the enforcer, try the door handle (quietly) if you want a rapid entry. Not many people lock the door when they are inside.
Search warrants don’t take long to obtain. Once you are used to writing them up, all you have to do is fill in the form, pop to court, talk them through it and get it authorised – or not.
When you are talking to the magistrate, they don’t just listen to your information, they ask you questions. It’s not an automatic thing, getting a warrant. You’re forcing your way into a person’s home and this is taken seriously. So your officer needs to know their case inside out to be able to answer all the questions that may come their way. But, as long as you do and your paperwork is in order, it is not a lengthy process. No lengthier than anything else in a very difficult and paperwork heavy job.
Rebecca Bradley is a retired UK police detective with over 15 years UK policing experience. Seven of those years were in uniform and the rest in a specialist investigative department where She handled multiple, serious and complex investigations. She is now a crime writer and offers a police procedural fact-checking service, available to all crime writers setting their work in England or Wales.
Please see THIS POST for further details.
She writes the DI Hannah Robbins series.
When catching a killer isn’t enough…
The naked, battered body of an unidentified teenager is found dumped in an alleyway and post-mortem finds evidence of a harrowing series of events.
Another teenage death with the same MO pushes DI Hannah Robbins and her team in the Nottingham City division Major Crimes Unit, to their limits, and across county borders. In a race against the clock, they attempt to unpick a thick web of lies and deceit to uncover the truth behind the deaths.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Just how far are the team willing to push themselves to save the next girl?