May An Officer Ask a Business to Execute a Search Warrant on Itself?

Once upon a time, search warrants were simple. An officer would obtain a warrant to search a suspect’s home or some other physical location connected to a crime. The officer would go to the location, announce his or her presence, and conduct the search. But these days, officers frequently want to obtain records and other evidence from businesses not suspected of any wrongdoing. For example, they want bank records that can be used to trace the suspect’s ill-gotten gains. They want cell site location information that can be used to tie the suspect to the crime scene. And they want email records that show communication between the suspect and his or her coconspirators. Officers do not typically kick down these businesses’ doors and start rummaging around, partly because that would be needlessly disruptive and partly because officers might have a hard time locating evidence stored in the cloud or on a server located who-knows-where. Instead, officers obtain a search warrant, then send a copy of the warrant to the company in question and ask the company to search its own records and provide responsive materials. Is that OK?

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Search Warrants for Digital Devices and the Requirement that Warrants be Executed within 48 Hours

I’ve had several questions lately about the requirement in G.S. 15A-248 that “[a] search warrant must be executed within 48 hours from the time of issuance.” The specific concern is how this applies to searches of digital devices, which frequently require off-site forensic analysis that may not begin, let alone end, until substantially more than 48 hours after issuance of the warrant. Although we don’t have an appellate case on point in North Carolina, courts in other jurisdictions have held that so long as the initial seizure of the device is timely, the forensic analysis may be conducted later.

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U.S Supreme Court Declines to Extend Officer’s Detention Authority Incident to Execution of Search Warrant Beyond Immediate Vicinity of Premises

In Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692 (1981), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an officer’s authority under the Fourth Amendment to detain—without reasonable suspicion or probable cause—people at a residence where a search warrant is being executed. The defendant in Summers was detained on a walkway leading down from the front steps of a house … Read more