Electronic Warrants for Digital Evidence

The ability to electronically submit warrants for judicial review and approval from any internet connected device is a game changer for public safety agencies. This allows officers to get a warrant approved in minutes instead of hours and saves them from having to travel and spend valuable time getting signatures.

Many states authorize police officers to apply for and have courts issue arrest warrants electronically. For example, Gwinnett County uses a computer system that allows officers to fill out an electronic form describing the specific crime that suspect is suspected of committing. Officers can do this from their patrol cars by using a touchscreen computer with an integrated tablet to enter the suspect information. The computer then populates the appropriate state code, allowing officers to quickly and accurately complete the application.

Several states also allow magistrates and judges to sign their warrants electronically. In some cases, this is done by fax. Then, the affidavit and warrant are then filed with the clerk of the court, and it is possible to have an official printed copy delivered directly to law enforcement.

However, special problems can arise in constructing search warrants for digital evidence. For example, a computer might be considered contraband if it contains child pornography or stolen property, or it may serve as an instrumentality of a crime (such as by being used to hack into a network). In addition, prosecutors must advise the magistrate and officers that they can focus their search on the content of the relevant files rather than on the physical storage media itself. electronic warrants

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