What Is a Sealed Warrant?

By Mark Fitzpatrick - Updated June 15, 2017
Holding Envelope

Warrants help legitimize the arrest of a suspect by police officers. However, the nature of sealed warrants are often viewed as controversial by both suspects and the general public.

Purpose

Courts usually seal warrants for the safety of the suspect or for the security of the prosecution. Sealed warrants must be released to the public 180 days after the suspect is arrested.

Considerations

If a warrant is sealed, the defense cannot read the information in the warrant. Without full access to the warrant, the defense cannot determine whether the warrant was issued with probable cause.

Mechanisms

Under the United States Constitution, sealed warrants are given high scrutiny. Defense attorneys can demand the warrants be unsealed under the First Amendment right to access records. There are also Fourth Amendment grounds for a suspect to have their warrant unsealed, as all citizens of the United States are entitled to inspect and scrutinize the grounds of a warrant.

About the Author

Mark Fitzpatrick began writing professionally in 2006. He has written in literary journals such as Read Herrings and provides written online guides for towns ranging from Seymour, Connecticut to Haines, Alaska. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Massachusetts.

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