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234 Pa. Code Rule 205. Contents of Search Warrant.

Rule 205. Contents of Search Warrant.

 (A)  Each search warrant shall be signed by the issuing authority and shall:

   (1)  specify the date and time of issuance;

   (2)  identify specifically the property to be seized;

   (3)  name or describe with particularity the person or place to be searched;

   (4)  direct that the search be executed either;

     (a)   within a specified period of time, not to exceed 2 days from the time of issuance, or;

     (b)   when the warrant is issued for a prospective event, only after the specified event has occurred;

   (5)  direct that the warrant be served in the daytime unless otherwise authorized on the warrant, provided that, for purposes of the rules of Chapter 200, Part A, the term ‘‘daytime’’ shall be used to mean the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.;

   (6)  designate by title the judicial officer to whom the warrant shall be returned;

   (7)  certify that the issuing authority has found probable cause based upon the facts sworn to or affirmed before the issuing authority by written affidavit(s) attached to the warrant; and

   (8)  when applicable, certify on the face of the warrant that for good cause shown the affidavit(s) is sealed pursuant to Rule 211 and state the length of time the affidavit(s) will be sealed.

 (B)  A warrant under paragraph (A) may authorize the seizure of electronic storage media or of electronically stored information. Unless otherwise specified, the warrant authorizes a later review of the media or information consistent with the warrant. The time for executing the warrant in (A)(4)(a) refers to the seizure of the media or information, and not to any later off-site copying or review.


   Paragraphs (A)(2) and (A)(3) are intended to proscribe general or exploratory searches by requiring that searches be directed only towards the specific items, persons, or places set forth in the warrant. Such warrants should, however, be read in a common sense fashion and should not be invalidated by hypertechnical interpretations. This may mean, for instance, that when an exact description of a particular item is not possible, a generic description may suffice. See Commonwealth v. Matthews, 285 A.2d 510, 513-14 (Pa. 1971).

   Paragraph (A)(4) is included pursuant to the Court’s supervisory powers over judicial procedure to supplement Commonwealth v. McCants, 299 A.2d 283 (Pa. 1973), holding that an unreasonable delay between the issuance and service of a search warrant jeopardizes its validity. Paragraph (A)(4) sets an outer limit on reasonableness. A warrant could, in a particular case, grow stale in less than two days. If the issuing authority believes that only a particular period which is less than two days is reasonable, he or she must specify such period in the warrant.

   Paragraph (A)(4)(b) provides for anticipatory search warrants. These types of warrants are defined in Commonwealth v. Glass, 754 A.2d 655 (Pa. 2000), as ‘‘a warrant based upon an affidavit showing probable cause that at some future time (but not presently) certain evidence of crime will be located at a specified place.’’

   Paragraph (A)(5) supplements the requirement of Rule 203(E) that special reasonable cause must be shown to justify a nighttime search. A warrant allowing a nighttime search may also be served in the daytime.

   Paragraph (A)(6) anticipates that the warrant will list the correct judicial officer to whom the warrant should be returned. There may be some instances in which the judicial officer who issues the warrant may not be the one to whom the warrant will be returned. For example, it is a common practice in many judicial districts to have an ‘‘on-call’’ magisterial district judge. This ‘‘on-call’’ judge would have the authority to issue search warrants anywhere in the judicial district but may not be assigned to the area in which the search warrant would be executed. There may be cases when the warrant is incorrectly returned to the judge who originally issued the warrant. In such cases, the issuing judge should forward the returned search warrant to the correct judicial officer. Thereafter, that judicial officer should administer the search warrant and supporting documents as provided for in these rules, including the Rule 210 requirement to file the search warrant and supporting documents with the clerk of courts.

   Paragraph (A)(8) implements the notice requirement in Rule 211(C). When the affidavit(s) is sealed pursuant to Rule 211, the justice or judge issuing the warrant must certify on the face of the warrant that there is good cause shown for sealing the affidavit(s) and must also state how long the affidavit will be sealed.

   For purposes of this rule, the term ‘‘electronically stored information’’ includes writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, sound recordings, images, and other data or data compilations stored in any medium from which information can be obtained. This definition is intended to cover all current types of computer-based information and to encompass future changes and developments.

   For purposes of this rule, the term ‘‘seizure’’ includes the copying of material or information that is subject to the search warrant. This includes the copying of electronically stored information for later analysis.

   For the procedures for motions for return of property, see Rule 588.

   Official Note

   Rule 2005 adopted October 17, 1973, effective 60 days hence; amended November 9, 1984, effective January 2, 1985; amended September 3, 1993, effective January 1, 1994; renumbered Rule 205 and amended March 1, 2000, effective April 1, 2001; amended October 19, 2005, effective February 1, 2006; Comment revised October 22, 2013, effective January 1, 2014; amended July 31, 2017, effective October 1, 2017.

   Committee Explanatory Reports:

   Report explaining the September 3, 1993 amendments published at 21 Pa.B. 3681 (August 17, 1991).

   Final Report explaining the March 1, 2000 reorganization and renumbering of the rules published with the Court’s Order at 30 Pa.B. 1478 (March 18, 2000).

   Final Report explaining the October 19, 2005 amendments to paragraph (4) and the Comment published with the Court’s Order at 35 Pa.B. 6088 (November 5, 2005).

   Final Report explaining the October 22, 2013 revisions to the Comment regarding the return of the search warrant published at 43 Pa.B. 6652 (November 9, 2013).

   Final Report explaining the July 31, 2017 amendment regarding search warrants for electronically stored information published with the Court’s Order at 47 Pa.B. 4681 (August 12, 2017).


   The provisions of this Rule 205 amended October 19, 2005, effective February 1, 2006, 35 Pa.B. 6087; amended October 22, 2013, effective January 1, 2014, 43 Pa.B. 6649; amended July 31, 2017, effective October 1, 2017, 47 Pa.B. 4680. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (369636) to (369638).

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