We brought you a story Wednesday about Laurens County Sheriff Bill Harrell admitting that he released wrong information in the David Hooks case. In September 2014 the Sheriff's Office obtained a no-knock search warrant at Hooks home after investigators received a tip from a known meth addict.
Many of you sounded off on our social media pages asking about search warrants.
So we asked, how do law enforcement officers obtain them? Claire Davis verified the process by checking state law and through Monroe County Magistrate Judge Frank Wilder.
Monroe County Narcotics Investigator Greggory Phillips has been in law enforcement for 16 years and in that time, he's obtained hundreds of search warrants. “We have to establish probable cause and take that before an affidavit and a warrant itself and go before a magistrate judge or a superior court judge to obtain a search warrant,” said Phillips.
Probable cause means they must show that a crime may have happened and that the person targeted was probably responsible. Phillips says sometimes deputies can gain probable cause from informants. “Being able to prove that they're not criminally involved at all, that they truly are a concerned citizen,” said Phillips.
Phillips verifies the affidavit has to be detailed for a judge to sign off on it. Magistrate Judge Frank Wilder says he's dealt with hundreds of warrants. “Satisfy the judge that there is probable cause. That the item they're searching for is at the particular location. The judge reviews it, the judge decides there's sufficient probable cause, then the judge will issue the warrant and they can search for whatever's approved in the search warrant,” he said. “If I were called to testify why there was probable cause, I don't want to be sitting there going well, I don't know. I want to be able to know. But it's not a certainty, it's probability. Probability is the item they're searching for probably there, it's not beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Wilder.
We verified the process of obtaining a search warrant by checking the state law.
Section 17-5-20 under oath or affirmation, which states facts sufficient to show probable cause that a crime is being committed or has been committed and which particularly describes the place or person, or both, to be searched and things to be seized, any judicial officer authorized to hold a court of inquiry to examine into an arrest of an offender against the penal laws, referred to in this Code section as "judicial officer," may issue a search warrant.
Wilder says a no-knock warrant is when a police officer can go into a home without any notice. He says a judge can sign off on those warrants. For example, if investigators believe that a suspect would harm a police officer or has a large number of weapons.