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NY Court of Appeals Limits Scope of Search Warrants

By Kamika Dunlap on April 08, 2010 9:50 AM

These days, it's going to take more than general search warrants for New York police to search everyone at a specific location. The NY Court of Appeals has now limited the scope of "all-persons-present" warrants.

The New York Court of Appeals said police are obligated to provide sufficient probable cause to justify the arrest and search of any person found at a location where such a warrant is executed, the New York Times reports.

A general search warrant can only be used on every person when there is probable cause that there is criminal activity.

The ruling has forced police to begin reviewing their warrant policies. Furthermore, police will need to more closely examine how they execute "all-persons-present" search warrants. The decision however stopped short of ruling such warrants unconstitutional.

The state court's ruling was based on a case where the Syracuse police department used an all-persons-present warrant during a drug raid in 2006. In that case, there was not enough evidence to strip search a man in his home.

Many lawyers say the ruling speaks directly to similar privacy issues involved in the illegal strip-searches of New York inmates, as previously discussed. The inmates at Rikers Island and other jails won a $33 million settlement as part of a class-action lawsuit.

In addition, lawyers say the ruling shows that general boilerplate language cannot be used on all search warrants and that some police have gotten lax when applying warrants.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution places limits on the power of the police to search people and their property, seize objects and contraband and make arrests.

The Legal Aid Society agreed with the ruling, saying that warrants should not be issued and executed based upon a general claim.

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