Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Phone in a Search Warrant?

The Illinois House recently passed a bill, which if approved, will allow police to obtain search warrants from a judge by phone and electronic transmission. Specifically, the bill calls for the amendment of 725 ILCS 5/108-4(c) (“Issuance of Search Warrant”) to allow search warrants to be issued upon sworn testimony communicated simultaneously via video and audio transmissions. While the bill is not an official law yet, the possibility of obtaining a search warrant without having to physically appear at the courthouse is likely appealing to all police departments because a search warrant can be obtained without having to invest the time and expense of traveling to the courthouse, especially since traveling to the courthouse may pull an officer off of active patrol or another important function. The standards and contents of the warrant are the same as with current warrant applications. Some interesting differences in the procedure include:

  • The application for the warrant is to be transmitted to the judge by fax, email or other reliable electronic means (or if transmission is impracticable, the contents can merely be read verbatim to the Judge);
  • If the Judge finds sufficient grounds for the issuance of the warrant, the requestor will sign the Judge’s name and enter on the face of the warrant the exact date and time when the warrant was to be issued (the Judge will also do the same on their copy).

The actual implementation of this bill and procedures to be followed will develop in the event this bill becomes a law. The bill was sent to the Governor’s office on June 20, 2014, and is currently awaiting his signature. We will keep you informed of any new developments regarding the status of this Bill.


Timothy J. Clifton Author: Timothy J. Clifton