Now that the FBI has executed a search warrant at former President Trump’s estate; many people are wondering: what is a search warrant, and what does it mean? A search warrant is a legal document that authorizes law enforcement officials to search a particular place, such as a home, or a thing, such as a phone, for evidence of a crime. Law enforcement agents often seek search warrants when they believe that evidence may be moved, concealed, altered or even destroyed. To obtain a search warrant, law enforcement official must demonstrate “probable cause” that the search is likely to find evidence of illegality. Typically, agents or police submit an affidavit to a judge or a magistrate, detailing the facts of an investigation which establish probable cause. Those affidavits are often sealed, and are not viewable by the public. Once the judge or magistrate reviews the request for a search warrant, the request can be granted or it can be denied. If the search warrant request is granted, then agents or police will promptly execute the warrant within a time period established by the issuing judge or magistrate. If items are seized in a search, then those items are carefully evaluated in the course of the investigation. One important thing to remember is that a search warrant is NOT in itself an indication of a subject’s guilt.
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