An anticipatory warrant is a type of search warrant that allows for a search to occur if there is evidence that a crime will occur at a certain time in place in the future. Certain requirements must be met before an anticipatory warrant can be issued.

What are the Requirements to Issue an Anticipatory Warrant?

If a law enforcement officer believes a crime will occur in the future, they are required to present an affidavit to a judge asking for an anticipatory warrant. The affidavit must show evidence to establish:

  1. There is probable cause that a crime will occur at a specific place in the future; and
  2. There is probable cause that a "triggering condition" will occur to create the crime.

Probable Cause

For example, evidence of a crime may not exist until someone buys and brings drugs into their home. If the police is surveilling a person, and finds out they are going to but and bring drugs into their home, that would give them probable cause to ask the Judge for an anticipatory warrant. If the judge grants the warrant, the police can search the home immediately after the person brings the drugs home.

Triggering Condition

Using the example above, the “triggering condition” will have occurred once the person bring the drugs home. That action would trigger the anticipatory warrant, allowing the police to search their home without violating the 4th Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Judge’s Decision

In addition, when a Judge is presented with an anticipatory warrant, they will have to decide the following in order to allow the police to receive the warrant:

At the time the warrant is presented to the judge, it is currently probable that contraband, evidence of a crime, or a fugitive will be at the specific location when the anticipatory warrant will be executed by the police.

Do I Need an Attorney to Handle an Anticipatory Warrant Issue?

If your home or property was searched based on an anticipatory warrant, and you think that the police had no basis for their search, you should contact a criminal lawyer. An attorney can analyze the evidence, explain the issues surrounding the warrant to you, help with your defense and seek to suppress any illegally obtained evidence.