Non-Officers Applying for Search Warrants

I’ve been asked several times recently whether people who are not sworn law-enforcement officers may apply for search warrants. Somewhat to my surprise, the answer is yes. Statutory analysis. For starters, the search warrant statutes themselves suggest that anyone may apply. The statutes repeatedly refer to “the applicant” in generic terms. By contrast, they specify … Read more

Out-of-State Requests for in-State Medical Records

From time to time, an officer from another state wants to get medical records from a North Carolina hospital. For example, a South Carolina officer may want the medical records of a driver who was involved in an accident just south of the border and who was taken to a North Carolina hospital. The officer … Read more

Probable Cause: The Same for All Crimes?

Suppose that a magistrate is asked to issue a search warrant for a particular residence. Based on the information presented to her by the applicant, the magistrate believes that there is approximately a 25% chance that a search of the residence will result in the discovery of evidence of the crime under investigation. When deciding … Read more

Warrant Searches of Computers

Last week, I posted a paper about warrantless searches of computers and electronic devices. Today, I’m posting its companion: this paper about warrant searches of computers, which I have just finished updating today. Although the paper focuses on computers, the principles discussed in the paper apply equally to other electronic devices. It turns out that … Read more

Consent to Search under Threat of Search Warrant

To be valid, consent to search must be voluntary. Is consent voluntary when given after an officer thrreatens to obtain a search warrant if consent is withheld? Generally, yes. See State v. Kuegel, 195 N.C. App. 310 (2009) (consent to search was given voluntarily even though officer said that if consent was denied he “would … Read more

Going Back to the Well, er, Magistrate

I’ve been asked several times recently whether an officer who asks a magistrate to issue an arrest warrant and is turned down based on a lack of probable cause can simply go to another magistrate and ask the other magistrate to issue the warrant. The answer is yes. There’s no double jeopardy problem because jeopardy … Read more

Blood Draws in DWI Cases

Update: Check out this post about a recent court of appeals case in this area. Original post: Most DWI cases involve breath tests for alcohol. But there are circumstances in which blood tests are administered. Most often, this happens when the defendant is injured in an accident and so cannot take a breath test. It … Read more

Search Warrants for “All Persons on the Premises”

I have been asked several times about the validity of search warrants that authorize the police to search a particular place and “all persons on the premises.” It sounds as though such warrants are most often requested in drug cases. A number of courts across the country have ruled on the validity of these “all … Read more

Computer Searches and Plain View

Computers and electronic storage media can hold massive quantities of data. At approximately 30,000 pages per gigabyte, a low-end laptop computer with a 250 gigabyte hard drive can store the equivalent of more than 7 million pages of paper. That’s thousands of bankers’ boxes worth, or as many pages as you’d find at a branch … Read more