Thursday, August 22, 2013

More on Search Warrants

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how judges issue search warrants.  These are often very serious and very urgent decisions that need to be made.  Officers may be searching for a weapon used in a homicide, or drugs, or child pornography.

Not all search warrants are life and death matters, however.  I had one search warrant experience when I was the Sibley County Attorney that was actually pretty funny.

I received a call late one night that the Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer (when I was growing up, we called them “Game Wardens”) had received a tip that a deer was being processed in a garage in Sibley County.  It was not deer season.

I met the Conservation Officer and several other law enforcement officers at the law office.  (Fortunately, Sibley County is a pretty boring place for police officers most nights.  When something out of the ordinary happens, especially something that is urgent but not necessarily dangerous – like a search warrant - lots of help arrives!)  I was typing up the affidavit to show Judge Bull that we had probable cause to go to the garage to investigate the apparent crime of taking a deer out of season. 

We worked on the warrant for probably a half hour or more.  I needed two more pieces of information before the application was complete, and we’d call Judge Bull to wake him up to consider our application.  I told the officers I’d finish up what I could, and I’d meet them at the Sheriff’s office to get the remaining information, that I’d then type in and we’d call the judge.

I finished typing and drove the eight miles to the county seat.  It was well after midnight by the time I arrived at the Sheriff’s Office.  When I parked the car, the Conservation Officer came up and asked, “Can we call this search off?”  I replied that I sure would like to avoid being embarrassed later if we didn’t have probable cause to search the garage, and asked him what had changed.

“Well,” the officer said, “I just remembered that I have a receipt for a car-killed deer that was issued to our suspect.”  The deer was being processed legally!

This was long enough ago that Lyle’s Café in Winthrop – home of the Pie Lady of Winthrop, who was still baking pies daily – was still open 24 hours.  The Conservation Officer bought pie and coffee for me and about eight other officers that night! 

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Next week:  The Choices We Make