A fraud unit began an investigation of suspicious real estate settlement activities. The defendant was an attorney specializing in real estate settlements. During the fraud unit’s investigation, his activities came under scrutiny, particularly in connection with a transaction involving Lot 13T in a subdivision. An extensive investigation disclosed that the defendant, acting as the settlement attorney, had defrauded the purchaser of Lot 13T.
The fraud investigators concluded that there was probable cause to believe that the defendant had committed the state crime of false pretenses. They applied for warrants to search the defendant’s office and the separate office of Mount Vernon Development Corporation, of which the defendant was incorporator, sole shareholder, resident agent and director. The application sought permission to search for specified documents pertaining to the sale and conveyance of Lot 13T. The warrant was issued.
Whether the warrant was specific enough to meet the “particularity” clause of the Fourth Amendment?
Yes. The warrant was specific enough to meet the “particularity” clause of the Fourth Amendment.
All items in a set of “files” may be examined during a search, provided that a description for identifying the evidence sought is listed in the search warrant – – and followed by the investigators. “We recognize that there are grave dangers inherent in executing a warrant authorizing a search and seizure of a person’s papers that are not necessarily present in executing a warrant to search for physical objects whose relevance is more easily ascertainable.” In searches for papers, it is likely that some innocuous documents will be examined, in order to determine whether they are among those papers authorized to be seized. Similar dangers are present in executing a warrant for the “seizure” of telephone conversations. In both kinds of searches, responsible officials, including judicial officials, must take care to assure that the search is conducted in a manner that minimizes unwarranted intrusions upon privacy.
427 U.S. 463, 96 S. Ct. 2737 (1976)