Electronic search warrant sign of the times

Technology that helps law enforcement officers do their jobs better and makes the judiciary process more efficient should be embraced. That’s why it is encouraging to see Johnson County utilizing a new resource that helps police, judges and magistrates.

The county is one of a few in the state so far to allow electronic search warrants. The process was approved by the Indiana Supreme Court on June 8.

Local police no longer need to request search warrants in person in front of a judge. Now they can send requests and receive signed search warrants with a few keystrokes, rather than a lot of driving and waiting time. Police can make the requests using their in-car computers, and judges and magistrates can electronically sign the warrant and return it via a secure communication link.

Expediency is crucial when time is of the essence, such as when state law dictates that a blood draw for a person who refuses a breath test must be conducted in a certain amount of time. And electronic search warrants reduce the time needed to secure a person at a scene where the search warrant is needed.

Johnson County Prosecutor Brad Cooper says electronic warrants are used but not widely.

“We have used electronic search warrants; however, most of our search warrants are telephonic,” he said. “In general, our local judges want search warrants submitted a certain way, so we comport with their preferences.”

In nearby Bartholomew County recently, the decision to use electronic search warrants was a good idea by the local judiciary that arose out of a problematic weekend when police needed a search warrant approved and all the local judges were out of town. Now, no judge or magistrate should ever be out of reach.

Other counties would be wise to examine the benefits of using electronic search warrants and follow suit. Considering that this technology helps police do their job faster and more efficiently, the decision should be a no-brainer.

At issue

Occasionally police need approval of search warrants more quickly than normal.

Our point

Electronic approval of warrants can speed up the process in certain situations.