What Is a Search Warrant?

A search warrant is a written court order signed by a judge that authorizes a law enforcement officer to search a home, car, container, or person. In order to obtain a warrant, a law enforcement officer submits a request with an affidavit to a judge. In the affidavit the officer states the facts he believes justifies probable cause for the judge to issue the warrant. The judge reviews the officer's request and affidavit, and if he believes probable cause exists to justify a search, then the judge will issue a search warrant.

Once armed with a search warrant, law enforcement is permitted to search a home, vehicle, thing or person as authorized in the warrant. Law enforcement's search must conform to the terms of the search warrant as far as the date, time, location, areas that may be searched and the items that may be taken. The police must provide the individual with a list of the items taken.