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Warrant Requirements: Specificity & Particularity

The Missouri and U.S. Constitutions require that a search warrant be reasonably particular as to the location of the place to be searched and a description of the items to be searched. Article I, Section 15 of the Missouri Constitution, for instance, provides —

That the people shall be secure in their persons, papers, homes and effects, from unreasonable searches and seizures; and no warrant to search any place, or seize any person or thing, shall issue without describing the place to be searched, or the person or thing to be seized, as nearly as may be; nor without probable cause, supported by written oath or affirmation.

The purpose of this is to avoid a general search of the suspect.

In evaluating the degree of particularity that is reasonable, the following factors are considered: the information that an officer could reasonably obtain about the location/ items before a warrant issued and the nature of the location/ items to be searched. What happens if a warrant clause is overly broad? An item seized pursuant to a particularized clause in a warrant may be admitted into evidence even though the other items are improperly seized pursuant to an overbroad clause.

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