Code of the District of Columbia

§ 23–521. Nature and issuance of search warrants.

(a) Under circumstances described in this subchapter, a judicial officer may issue a search warrant upon application of a law enforcement officer or prosecutor. A warrant may authorize a search to be conducted anywhere in the District of Columbia and may be executed pursuant to its terms.

(b) A search warrant may direct a search of any or all of the following:

(1) one or more designated or described places or premises;

(2) one or more designated or described vehicles;

(3) one or more designated or described physical objects; or

(4) designated persons.

(c) A search warrant may direct the seizure of designated property or kinds of property, and the seizure may include, to such extent as is reasonable under all the circumstances, taking physical or other impressions, or performing chemical, scientific, or other tests or experiments of, from, or upon designated premises, vehicles, or objects.

(d) Property is subject to seizure pursuant to a search warrant if there is probable cause to believe that it —

(1) is stolen or embezzled;

(2) is contraband or otherwise illegally possessed;

(3) has been used or is possessed for the purpose of being used, or is designed or intended to be used, to commit or conceal the commission of a criminal offense; or

(4) constitutes evidence of or tends to demonstrate the commission of an offense, the identity of a person participating in the commission of an offense, or the identity of a person who is the victim of a crime.

(e) A search warrant may be addressed to a specific law enforcement officer or to any classification of officers of the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia or other agency authorized to make arrests or execute process in the District of Columbia.

(f) A search warrant shall contain —

(1) the name of the issuing court, the name and signature of the issuing judicial officer, and the date of issuance;

(2) if the warrant is addressed to a specific officer, the name of that officer, otherwise, the classifications of officers to whom the warrant is addressed;

(3) a designation of the premises, vehicles, objects, or persons to be searched, sufficient for certainty of identification;

(4) a description of the property whose seizure is the object of the warrant;

(5) a direction that the warrant be executed during the hours of daylight or, where the judicial officers have found cause therefor, including one of the grounds set forth in section 23-522(c)(1), an authorization for execution at any time of day or night; and

(6) a direction that the warrant and an inventory of any property seized pursuant thereto be returned to the court on the next court day after its execution.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 614, Pub. L. 91-358, title II, § 210(a); Oct. 26, 1974, 88 Stat. 1455, Pub. L. 93-481, § 4(b); Apr. 30, 1988, D.C. Law 7-104, § 7(a), 35 DCR 147; June 3, 2011, D.C. Law 18-376, § 4, 58 DCR 944.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 23-521.

1973 Ed., § 23-521.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-301.89a, § 23-522, § 23-523, and § 23-524.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 18-376 rewrote subsec. (d)(4), which formerly read:

“(4) constitutes evidence of or tends to demonstrate the commission of an offense or the identity of a person participating in the commission of an offense.”

Cross References

Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, search warrants, see § 25-803.

Businesses, examination of books and search of premises of certain businesses, see § 5-117.02.

Cruelty to animals, search warrants to prevent, see § 22-1005.

Gaming houses or bawdy houses, authorization of searches, see § 5-115.06.

Milk containers, search warrants to discover illegal use, see §§ 36-125 and 36-155.

Pawned or pledged property, examination of property, see § 5-117.03.

Raids, prohibition of advance information of raids to attorneys or bondsmen, see § 23-1109.

Uniform Narcotic Drug Act, search warrants, see § 48-902.04.

Weights, Measures, and Markets, warrantless searches by Director, see § 37-201.24.