How Long Does It Take To Get A Search Warrant?

How Long Does It Take To Get A Search Warrant - How Long Does It Take Police To Get A Warrant - How Long Does It Take To Get A Warrant

How long does it take to get a search warrant?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • how long it takes police to get a search warrant
  • what affects how long it takes police to get a warrant
  • search warrant requirements
  • getting a warrant for probable cause 
  • how they get a warrant against you
  • when they can bypass getting a search warrant
  • how long search warrants last and whether they expire
  • how many times police can come to your house
  • how the police find you if you have a warrant

Let’s dig in.

Table of Contents

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How Long Does It Take To Get A Search Warrant?

On average, it takes anywhere from a few hours to several days for police to get a search warrant. 

As you can imagine, getting a search warrant takes different amounts of time. 

Several factors affect this, like: 

  • where the warrant is sought
  • what the case is about
  • whether a judge or magistrate is available
  • how busy the police are

Let’s break it down:

  • Preparation: Police need evidence to get a warrant. They must prove there’s a good reason to believe a crime has happened. This is called probable cause. Collecting evidence can take hours, days, or even longer, depending on the case.
  • Submission and Review: After gathering evidence, the police fill out paperwork. This includes an affidavit, which is a written statement, and a warrant application. They give these documents to a judge or magistrate. The judge or magistrate looks over them to decide if there’s enough evidence. This usually takes several hours.
  • Issuance: If the judge or magistrate agrees there’s probable cause, they grant the search warrant. This step is quick, often under an hour. But, it depends on when the judge or magistrate is available. It’s usually faster during business hours on weekdays.
  • Execution: After getting the warrant, the police must act fast. They have a limited time to search, which is stated in the warrant. This is often 10 days, but it can vary.

In emergencies, things can move faster. 

For example, if public safety is at risk or evidence might get destroyed, the police can get an expedited warrant. 

This means the process is sped up.

Read More: What Happens If I Have A Warrant In Another City

Search Warrant Requirements

To get a search warrant, law enforcement must follow certain requirements:

  • Probable Cause: Officers must have solid evidence that suggests a crime has occurred. This evidence must be strong enough to convince a judge or magistrate.
  • Specificity: The warrant must clearly state what the officers are looking for and where they will search. They can’t just search anywhere; the warrant must pinpoint specific locations.
  • Sworn Statement (Affidavit): The officer applying for the warrant must write an affidavit. This is a document where they explain the evidence and why it shows probable cause.
  • Judge’s Approval: A judge or magistrate must review the affidavit. If they believe there’s probable cause based on the information presented, they will issue the search warrant.
  • Time Limits: After getting the warrant, officers must carry out the search within a certain time frame. This is usually stated in the warrant itself.
  • Executing the Warrant: When officers execute the warrant, they must follow legal procedures. This includes respecting the limits set by the warrant on locations and items to search.
  • Returning Inventory: After the search, officers usually must provide the court with a list of what they seized. This is to ensure that they only took items mentioned in the warrant.

These steps ensure that search warrants respect people’s privacy and legal rights while helping law enforcement investigate crimes effectively.

Read More: If You Have A Warrant Can You Just Pay It

Probable Cause For A Search Warrant

Probable cause for a search warrant means that:

  • there is reasonable evidence to believe a crime has happened
  • evidence of that crime is likely to be found at a specific location 

Here’s what it involves:

  • Solid Evidence: Law enforcement must have concrete evidence, not just a hunch or suspicion. This might include witness statements, surveillance footage, or information from informants.
  • Connection to a Specific Place: The evidence must suggest that there is a link between the crime and the location to be searched. For instance, if stolen goods are believed to be hidden in a house, there must be evidence pointing to that specific house.
  • Recentness: The evidence should be recent or have ongoing relevance. Old information that is no longer relevant does not establish probable cause.
  • Detailed Affidavit: An officer must write an affidavit for probable cause explaining the evidence and why it indicates probable cause. This document should be detailed and specific.
  • Judicial Review: A judge or magistrate reviews the affidavit. If they agree that the evidence demonstrates probable cause, they will issue the search warrant.

In essence, probable cause is about having enough solid and current evidence that clearly connects a crime to a specific place.

You have to convince a judge that a search warrant is justified in the affidavit for probable cause.

Read More: Can A Probation Officer Lift A Warrant

Affidavit For A Search Warrant

An affidavit for a search warrant is a written statement made by a law enforcement officer. 

In this statement, the officer lays out the evidence and reasons why a search warrant is needed.

Here’s how the search warrant affidavit works:

  • Detailing Evidence: The officer lists the evidence they have collected. This can include things like witness statements, photos, or any information that shows a crime has likely occurred.
  • Linking Evidence to Location: The affidavit must explain how the evidence is connected to the specific place they want to search. This connection is critical for getting the warrant.
  • Sworn Statement: The officer must swear that the information in the affidavit for the search warrant is true to the best of their knowledge. This usually involves signing the document in front of a legal official.
  • Submitting to a Judge: The officer submits the search warrant affidavit to a judge. The judge reviews the affidavit to decide if there’s enough evidence for probable cause.
  • Obtaining the Warrant: If the judge believes the affidavit shows probable cause, they will issue the search warrant. The police can then use this warrant to search the location for further evidence.

A search warrant affidavit is an essential document that helps law enforcement obtain a warrant. 

It must clearly detail the evidence, link it to a specific location, and be sworn as true by the officer. 

This ensures the search warrant process is thorough and respects legal standards.

How To Get A Search Warrant

Here are the steps to getting a search warrant:

  1. Collect Evidence: Police need to gather solid proof that a crime has happened. They must also have evidence pointing to a specific location where more proof might be found.
  2. Consult Legal Advisor: It’s a good practice for police to talk with a legal advisor. This helps make sure the evidence is strong enough and the process is followed correctly.
  3. Write an Affidavit: Next, an officer creates a written statement called an affidavit. It details the evidence and explains why they believe it’s linked to the place they want to search.
  4. Complete the Application: The officer also fills out an application form. This form usually asks for information about what they’re looking for and where they want to search.
  5. Submit to a Judge: The officer hands in the affidavit and application to a judge. This can be done face-to-face, by phone, or online.
  6. Judge Reviews the Documents: The judge checks the affidavit and application. They’re looking to see if there’s enough proof to justify a search.
  7. Issuance of Warrant: If the judge thinks the proof is good, they issue the search warrant. This legal document spells out where police can search and what they can look for.
  8. Execute the Search Warrant: Finally, the police conduct the search. They need to follow the legal rules and stick to what the warrant allows.

To get a search warrant, there are three main phases: 

Preparation Phase:

  • Gather Evidence: Police must collect solid evidence that suggests a crime has been committed. This evidence should be linked to a specific location.
  • Write an Affidavit: An officer makes a written statement, called a search warrant affidavit. It details the evidence and explains why it’s believed to be connected to the location.

Submission Phase:

  • Fill Out Application: Alongside the search warrant affidavit, the officer completes a warrant application. This form asks for specifics about what and where they want to search.
  • Submit to Judge: The officer presents the search warrant affidavit and application to a judge or magistrate. This can happen in person, over the phone, or online.

Review and Issuance Phase:

  • Judge Evaluates: The judge looks over the documents. They check if the evidence is strong enough to justify the search.
  • Warrant Issued: If the judge believes there’s probable cause for a search warrant, they issue the warrant. The warrant will clearly state the place to be searched and the items or information being sought.

After these phases, the police can execute the search warrant according to the terms set by the judge.

They must adhere to legal procedures and respect the limits established in the warrant.

Special Circumstances For Police To Get A Search Warrant

Special circumstances can make getting a search warrant different. 

There are two main types: 

  • exigent circumstances 
  • electronic and telephonic warrants

Exigent Circumstances

Exigent circumstances mean there’s an emergency. 

If the police think someone is in danger or evidence might disappear fast, they have to act quickly. 

In such cases, they might not wait for a warrant. 

They can search to stop harm or keep the evidence safe.

Electronic and Telephonic Warrants

Electronic and telephonic warrants come in when there’s no time to go to court, but a warrant is still needed. 

An officer might call a judge or use online forms. 

They tell the judge why it’s urgent. 

The judge checks the information. 

If it all adds up, the judge gives the warrant electronically. 

This way, the police can move fast and still follow the law.

Read More: What Happens If Charges Are Dropped Before Court

How Police Execute Search Warrants

Executing a search warrant involves several steps to ensure it’s carried out legally and effectively:

  1. Assembling the Search Team: Law enforcement gathers a team of officers. The team should have the right mix of expertise and skills needed for the search.
  2. Briefing and Preparation: Before the search, there’s a briefing. Here, officers review the warrant and discuss the plan. They go over what they’re looking for and the layout of the location.
  3. Proper Execution Procedures: Officers must follow the law during the search. They can only search the places and for the items listed in the warrant.
  4. Time of Day Considerations: Some warrants specify when the search must happen, like daytime or nighttime. Officers must stick to this timing.
  5. Communication with Property Owners: When officers arrive, they usually need to show the warrant to the property owner. They explain why they are there.
  6. Documenting the Search: Officers must keep a record of the search. They note what they did and what they found. They often take photos or videos.
  7. Time Constraints: There’s a deadline for doing the search. This is usually stated in the warrant. Officers must complete the search within this timeframe.

By following these steps, law enforcement ensures the search:

How Long Does A Search Warrant Last?

A search warrant typically lasts for a short period, often around 10 days. 

This means that the police have 10 days to carry out the search. 

The exact time can vary depending on local laws. 

The warrant itself will state the expiration date. 

If the police don’t use the warrant within this time, it becomes invalid. 

They would need to apply for a new one if they still want to conduct the search. 

It’s important for the police to act promptly to make sure the warrant doesn’t expire before they can use it.

Read More: How Long Do You Have To Turn Yourself In After A Warrant?

Does A Warrant Expire?

Yes, a warrant can expire. 

When a judge issues a search warrant, it usually comes with a time limit. 

This means the police must use the warrant within a certain number of days. 

This period varies by jurisdiction, but it’s often around 10 days. 

If the police don’t use the warrant within this time, it expires.

However, arrest warrants are different. 

Most of the time, they don’t expire. 

An arrest warrant stays active until:

  • the person named in the warrant is arrested 
  • the court cancels it

Read More: How Many Misdemeanors Equal A Felony

FAQs About How Long Does It Take To Get A Search Warrant

These are other questions we get related to how long it takes to get a search warrant.

How Many Times Can The Police Come To Your House?

There is no set limit on how many times the police can come to your house. 

However, there must be a valid reason each time the police come to your house. 

Here’s what you should know:

  • Responding to Calls: If someone calls the police and reports a concern at your address, the police can come to check.
  • Investigating Crimes: If the police are investigating a crime and have reason to believe your house is involved, they might come more than once.
  • Welfare Checks: Police might also visit if they have reason to believe someone in the house needs help or is in danger.
  • With a Warrant: If the police have a search warrant, they can enter your house. If they obtain multiple warrants over time, they can come multiple times.
  • Following Up: Sometimes, the police may return to your house for follow-up questions or to gather additional information related to an ongoing investigation.

Police must respect your rights during their visits. 

Let’s say you feel that the police are coming to your house without a valid reason, or too often.

It might be wise to keep a record of the visits and consult with a legal expert for advice.

But, how many times can the police come to your house with warrants? 

The police can come to your house with warrants as many times as necessary. Here’s how it works:

  • New Evidence: If the police find new evidence in a case, they can get a new warrant. This allows them to search your house again.
  • Different Cases: If there are different investigations involving your house, the police can get separate warrants for each case.
  • Specific Conditions: Sometimes, a warrant might allow for multiple searches. This happens when the warrant specifies certain conditions that warrant repeated searches.
  • Proper Procedure: As long as the police follow proper legal procedures and have valid reasons, there is no limit to how many times they can come with a warrant.

Read More: How Long Can Police Hold A Vehicle Under Investigation

Can Police Come To Your House At Night?

Yes, police can come to your house at night with a search warrant. 

However, there are rules for police coming to your house at night:

  • Time Restrictions: Some warrants specify the times when police can search. If the warrant says it can be served at night, then they can enter your house during nighttime hours.
  • Knock and Announce: Typically, police must knock and announce themselves before entering. They need to say they have a warrant and wait a reasonable time for you to open the door.
  • Exigent Circumstances: In emergencies, like if someone’s life is in danger or evidence might be destroyed, police can enter without knocking.
  • Noise Levels: Police should avoid creating unnecessary noise or disturbance during the search, especially at night.

So, while it’s possible for police to search your house at night, they must follow certain rules unless there’s an emergency.

How Do Police Find People With Warrants?

Police use various methods to find people with warrants:

  • Databases and Networks: Police check databases that list people with outstanding warrants. They share this information across different police departments through networks.
  • Routine Traffic Stops: During traffic stops, police check the driver’s information. If there’s a warrant for the driver, they can make an arrest.
  • Home or Workplace Visits: Police might go to the person’s home or workplace. They can ask questions and look for information about the person’s whereabouts.
  • Social Media and Internet Searches: Police use social media and internet searches to track down leads. People sometimes reveal their location online.
  • Tips and Informants: Police often receive tips from the public or informants. These tips can provide valuable information about a person’s location.
  • Surveillance: Police may watch places the person is known to visit. This can include friends’ houses, family members’ homes, or favorite hangouts.
  • Collaboration with Other Agencies: Police work with other agencies, like parole officers or federal authorities, to find people with warrants.
  • Warrant Sweeps: Sometimes police conduct large-scale operations called warrant sweeps. They target many individuals with outstanding warrants at once.

Protect Your Rights From A Search Warrant

If you are facing a search warrant, fill out the form on this page.

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