When a Traditional Search Warrant May Not Be the Best Choice

With this SWAT blog, we're presenting a scenario that could be presented to a SWAT commander who must make a crucial decision β€” should the team serve a high-risk search warrant for this complex case?

Author Alicia Hilton Web Headshot

With this SWAT blog, we're presenting a scenario that could be presented to a SWAT commander who must make a crucial decision β€” should the team serve a high-risk search warrant for this complex case?

If you were advising a SWAT commander, how would you suggest handling this? Please add your comments below.

In the follow-up post, we'll reveal a valuable tool that law enforcement officers can deploy to safely resolve this scenario.

Here's the set up:

Fifteen years ago, Armen was convicted of forgery, possession of marijuana, battery and resisting arrest. He served a short sentence after accepting a plea bargain. Since his release, he hasn't been arrested.

You now have probable cause that Armen is engaged in child pornography, marijuana distribution, and financial fraud. Evidence of his crimes is located at his residence. You believe Armen is committing some of his crimes with other individuals.

Informants have reported on Armen's activities, and officers have conducted surveillance ops that haven't resulted in much useful information about Armen's crimes. You'd like an undercover officer to approach Armen, but he doesn't speak English. He's Armenian and only associates with Armenians. None of your experienced undercover officers speak Armenian.

You need to gather more evidence about the scope of Armen's crimes, identify victims, identify Armen's co-conspirators, and identify bank account records or other records that will help you locate where the proceeds of the crimes are being stashed.

You should also know that Armen doesn't have an office. He lives alone and on some evenings he's accompanied by men or women he brings home from nightclubs.

How should you proceed with the investigation?

Should you get a warrant to search Armen's residence and immediately execute it? Would it be better to continue with the surveillance ops and the meetings with informants and to wait until after you have identified Armen's associates to conduct the search?

Consider the benefits of particular courses of action, as well as what can go wrong, before you decide on your strategy.

Related:

Clearing Up Knock-and-Announce Confusion

No-Knock Searches: Reasonable or Deadly?

About the Author
Author Alicia Hilton Web Headshot
Special Agent (Ret.)
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