Blanket Search Warrant Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Blanket Search Warrant, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Blanket Search Warrant?

“A search warrant that allows a broad area, or multiple areas to be searched.

History and Meaning of Blanket Search Warrant

A blanket search warrant is a search warrant that allows the police to search multiple locations or areas, or a broad area, without specifically identifying what they are looking for. Blanket warrants were first used in the 1700s in England and were primarily used to quell public unrest at the time. Their use was also prevalent in the United States during the Revolutionary War era.

The use of blanket search warrants is controversial because they allow law enforcement to conduct searches without a particularized suspicion based on probable cause, which is required under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, blanket warrants are sometimes necessary in situations where there is a reasonable belief that evidence of a crime may be located in multiple locations or where the evidence may be moved or destroyed if the police are required to obtain individual warrants.

Examples of Blanket Search Warrant

  1. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a blanket search warrant for the electronic devices of everyone who visited an anti-Trump website in connection with a protest on Inauguration Day. The warrant was later narrowed by a court, but it drew criticism from civil liberties advocates.

  2. In 2020, the Louisville police department used a blanket warrant to search multiple locations in connection with the shooting of Breonna Taylor. The warrant allowed them to search any location connected to Taylor's ex-boyfriend, who they believed was involved in drug trafficking.

  3. In 2018, the Indian government issued a blanket search warrant to monitor all internet communications in the country for six months. The warrant was eventually struck down by the Indian Supreme Court.

Legal Terms Similar to Blanket Search Warrant

  1. General Warrant: A type of warrant that allows law enforcement to conduct a search without specifying the particular place to be searched or the items to be seized. Similar to a blanket search warrant.

  2. Dragnet Search: A type of search that involves the rounding up of large numbers of individuals and searching them all for evidence of a crime.

  3. No-Knock Warrant: A type of warrant that allows law enforcement to enter a property without announcing their presence or purpose. Unlike a blanket warrant, a no-knock warrant is specific to a single location.