July 9, 2019

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Accurate Search Warrant Affidavits

Gordon Graham
Category: Law Enforcement

Gordon Graham here with Today’s Tip from Lexipol. Today’s Tip is for law enforcement, and it’s about the importance of accurate search warrant affidavits.

“When we prepare a document to go into somebody’s home…it has to be absolutely factual.” 

It goes without saying that we should be honest and truthful in all affidavits, especially those that are in support of a search warrant. In fact, being intentionally dishonest in a search warrant affidavit is a completely different issue that I’ll reserve for another day.

What I’m talking about today is being accurate. One chief put it well when he said, “When we prepare a document to go into somebody’s home…it has to be absolutely factual.” That’s what I’m talking about today.

So how do we do that? Well, sometimes we need to include facts in our affidavit that, for whatever reason, we don’t have. Something like whether the house is the second or third from the end of the block. Or the finish on the gun our informant saw the last time he or she was in the house. Or the specific location of the drawer in which the informant saw the drugs.

When we’re crunched for time and are missing one of these seemingly insignificant facts, it’s tempting to guess. Sometimes it seems more important to get the warrant and get it served than it is to be absolutely factual. The judge doesn’t care about these details. They likely don’t impact the probable cause decision. So, what difference do they make, right?

What I want you to consider is that if anything goes wrong, from not finding what you’re searching for to a shootout that results in injuries or death, everything and everybody will be under the microscope.

Your agency, the media, and the public will examine every word of every document you have submitted in support of the warrant. And any detail that is not absolutely factual can blow up on you.

So, take your time. Get it right. Include all the facts. And make sure you are absolutely factual in your search warrant affidavits.

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