“Anticipatory ” Search Warrants Are Valid – United States v. Grubbs

An anticipatory search warrant is used by law enforcement agents from time to time. This type of warrant will authorize a search based upon the happening of a future event or a condition other than the mere passage of time. Today, for the first time, the United States Supreme Court ruled that anticipatory search warrants do not violate the 4th Amendment.

In United States v. Grubbs, federal agents expected that the defendant was going to receive a video tape via the mail that contained child pornography. The agents sought an anticipatory search warrant from a magistrate for the defendant’s home. The under the terms of the search warrant, authority to search and seize was to be triggered by the delivery of the purported pornographic tape the the defendant’s home. Agents witnessed the delivery of the tape to the defendant’s residence. Subsequently, when the warrant was served, the tape was recovered and the defendant was arrested.

The Supreme Court ruled that an anticipatory search warrant must be based upon evidence that there is probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime will be present at the scene of the search at the time in the future when the warrant is served. Beyond this, it is not necessary that the search warrant describe with particularity the triggering conditions for its execution.. The particularity requirement in the 4th Amendment only applies to the places to be searched and persons or things to be seized.

Download a copy of United States v. Grubbs.

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