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Search Warrants – Scope – Particularity Requirement: Violated Where Target’s Address Must Be Verified

State v. Michael Anthony King, 2008 WI App 129
For King: Mark S. Rosen

Issue/Holding: A search warrant that conditions its execution on verification of the target’s address violates the 4th amendment’s particularity requirement:

¶25      … The Fourth Amendment clearly sets forth the particularity requirement that must be satisfied prior to issuance of a warrant. … The particularity requirement is necessary “to direct the officer to the exact place to be searched and to guard against abuses that prevailed under the old writs of assistance which left the place to be searched to the discretion of the searching officer.” Rainey v. State, 74 Wis. 2d 189, 202, 246 N.W.2d 529 (1976) (emphasis added).

¶27      We agree with King that the search warrant afforded law enforcement the sole discretion to search any one of the three addresses specified in violation of the particularity requirement. There were no safeguards in the warrant as to how the police were going to determine the address. It provided only: “This authorization is contingent upon law enforcement officers identifying the precise unit, 8811, 8813 or 8815, in which Michael King resides. No search of any unit is authorized absent such a verification, and the authorization extends only to that unit in which Michael King resides.”

¶30      No information has been provided to explain why King’s address could not have been verified before the search warrant was sought. From our review of other cases dealing with search warrants, law enforcement has frequently confirmed the address of a target by checking motor vehicle registration and utility records. …

¶31      Were we to conclude that this language was sufficiently particular, we would encourage a crop of search warrants containing alternate addresses, leaving law enforcement free to pick the residence they want to search. …

¶32      Based on the foregoing, we agree with King that the warrant was invalid.

 

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