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"Sneak and peek" warrant

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Definition Edit

A "sneak and peek" warrant is a search warrant that allows law enforcement officers to enter and search a premises without immediately notifying the owner when such notice may have an adverse result (e.g., tipping off a suspect or co-conspirators).[1]

Overview Edit

Before passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, which explicitly codified and expanded "delayed-notice" ("sneak and peek") search warrants, these warrants were designed for use in criminal cases and exercised on a limited basis.[2]

The USA PATRIOT Act amended Title 18 to allow federal law enforcement officers to request from the courts a "sneak and peek" search warrant allowing officers to enter and search a premises without immediately notifying the owner when such notice may have an adverse result (e.g., tipping off a suspect or co-conspirators).[3]

"Sneak and peek" warrants have been used rarely in terrorism cases. In the first three years for which data were available (October 1, 2006-September 30, 2009), the Director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) reported to Congress that 2,332 delayed-notice search warrant requests were made. Drug-related offenses accounted for 1,618 (69.4%) of these. The next largest category of offense for such warrants was fraud (122 warrants, 5.2%). Fifteen requests (less than 1%) were made for terrorism cases.[4] In the following fiscal year 2010, the number of delayed-notice search warrants exceeded those in all three previous years combined with an increase in the percentage of drug-related cases represented (now up to 75%) and still under 1% of cases for terrorism.[5]

References Edit

  1. Pub. L. No. 107-56, §213.
  2. Video: Senator Feingold questions Assistant Attorney General David Kris on PATRIOT Act and secret searches.
  3. 18 U.S.C. §3103(a), amending Rule 41(f)(3) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
  4. Director of the Administrative Office (AO) of the United States Courts, Report on Applications for Delayed-Notice Search Warrants and Extensions, for FY2007; FY2008;FY 2009. The USA PATRIOT Act requires the AO to transmit to Congress annually (beginning with data from FY2007) a full and complete report summarizing information reported by judges on delayed-notice search warrants.
  5. Director of the Administrative Office (AO) of the United States Courts, Report on Applications for Delayed-Notice Search Warrants and Extensions, for FY2010 (full-text).

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