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What Is a Seizure Warrant?

In the US, the Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.
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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
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  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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A seizure warrant is a legal document that permits law enforcement officials to seize property. If often accompanies a search warrant. A seizure warrant is granted when it is believed certain property may have been used in a crime or may have been purchased with the proceeds from a crime.

In the United States, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

This means it protects individuals from having their property searched or their items seized without approval from a court official who has certified there is sufficient cause. Generally, warrants are awarded by judges at the request of prosecutors or police officials. The judge will first review the evidence, which includes the reasons why it is believed evidence of illegal activity will be found in the search. The judge then denies or grants the warrant. If the warrant is granted, it usually will specify the area(s) which can be searched and will specify what is being sought with the search.

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A seizure warrant is a specific type of warrant that allows the law enforcement officials to actually take the items they find. It is necessary to have such a warrant because otherwise if the police identified illegal material, such as drugs or guns, the police would not be permitted to just take the item. The seizure warrant certifies it is appropriate for the law enforcement officials to take the item into custody, but it is limited. The police can take the drugs or guns, for example, or can seize someone's car if there is reason to believe the car is evidence in a crime, such as blood on the seats. They can't just take any item within the home of a person when a search and seizure warrant has been issued.

In addition to items used to commit a crime or items that provide evidence in a crime, police can also take items they believe were purchased with money earned through the commission of a crime. For example, if a man is accused of robbing a bank and his apartment is filled with brand new electronics purchased the day after the robbery, the police may be able to seize these ill-gotten gains under the seizure warrant.

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