Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter II. Search Warrants.


§ 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.


§ 23–522. Applications for search warrants.

(a) Each application for a search warrant shall be made in writing, or by telephone or other appropriate means, including facsimile transmissions or other electronic communications, upon oath or affirmation to a judicial officer, pursuant to the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure.

(b) Each application shall include —

(1) the name and title of the applicant;

(2) a statement that there is probable cause to believe that property of a kind or character described in section 23-521(d) is likely to be found in a designated premise, in a designated vehicle or object, or upon designated persons;

(3) allegations of fact supporting such statement; and

(4) a request that the judicial officer issue a search warrant directing a search for and seizure of the property in question.

The applicant may also submit depositions or affidavits of other persons containing allegations of fact supporting or tending to support those contained in the application.

(c) The application may also contain a request that the search warrant be made executable at any hour of the day or night upon the ground that there is probable cause to believe that (1) it cannot be executed during the hours of daylight, (2) the property sought is likely to be removed or destroyed if not seized forthwith, or (3) the property sought is not likely to be found except at certain times or in certain circumstances. Any request made pursuant to this subsection must be accompanied and supported by allegations of fact supporting such request.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 615, Pub. L. 91-358, title II, § 210(a); Oct. 26, 1974, 88 Stat. 1455, Pub. L. 93-481, § 4(c); Oct. 17, 2002, D.C. Law 14-194, § 802, 49 DCR 5306.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 23-522.

1973 Ed., § 23-522.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 23-521.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 14-194 rewrote subsec. (a) which had read as follows: “(a) Each application for a search warrant shall be made in writing upon oath or affirmation to a judicial officer.”

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 36-1555.

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.


§ 23–523. Time of execution of search warrants.

(a) A search warrant shall not be executed more than ten days after the date of issuance and shall be returned to the court after its execution or expiration in accordance with section 23-521(f)(6).

(b) A search warrant may be executed on any day of the week and, in the absence of express authorization in the warrant pursuant to section 23-521(f)(5), shall be executed only during the hours of daylight. For the purposes of this subsection, the term “hours of daylight” means between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.


(June 3, 1997, D.C. Law 11-275, § 14(b), 44 DCR 1408; Dec. 10, 2009, D.C. Law 18-88, § 221, 56 DCR 7413.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 23-523.

1973 Ed., § 23-523.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 18-88, in subsec. (b), added the second sentence.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 221 of Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-181, August 6, 2009, 56 DCR 6903).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 221 of Omnibus Public Safety and Justice Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2009 (D.C. Act 18-227, October 21, 2009, 56 DCR 8668).


§ 23–524. Execution of search warrants.

(a) An officer executing a warrant directing a search of a dwelling house or other building or a vehicle shall execute such warrant in accordance with section 3109 of Title 18, United States Code.

(b) An officer executing a warrant directing a search of a person shall give, or make reasonable effort to give, notice of his identity and purpose to the person, and, if such person thereafter resists or refuses to permit the search, such person shall be subject to arrest by such officer pursuant to section 23-581(a) for violation of section 432 of the Revised Statutes of the United States relating to the District of Columbia (D.C. Official Code, sec. 22-405) (resisting a police officer) or other applicable provision of law.

(c)(1) An officer or agent executing a search warrant shall write and subscribe an inventory setting forth the time of the execution of the search warrant and the property seized under it.

(2) If the search is of a person, a copy of the warrant and of the return shall be given to that person.

(3) If the search is of a place, vehicle, or object, a copy of the warrant and of the return shall be given to the owner thereof if he is present, or if he is not, to an occupant, custodian, or other person present; or if no person is present, the officer shall post a copy of the warrant and of the return upon the premises, vehicle, or object searched.

(d) A copy of the warrant shall be filed with the court whose judge or magistrate authorized its issuance on the next court day after its execution, together with a copy of the return.

(e) An officer or agent executing a search warrant may seize any property discovered in the course of the lawful execution of such warrant if he has probable cause to believe that such property is subject to seizure under section 23-521(d), even if the property is not enumerated in the warrant or the application therefor, and no additional warrant shall be required to authorize such seizure, if the property is fully set forth in the return. Such seizure may include taking physical or other impressions or performing chemical, scientific, or other tests or experiments.

(f) An officer or agent executing a search warrant may take photographs and measurements during the execution.

(g) An officer executing a warrant directing a search of premises or a vehicle may search any person therein (1) to the extent reasonably necessary to protect himself or others from the use of any weapon which may be concealed upon the person, or (2) to the extent reasonably necessary to find property enumerated in the warrant which may be concealed upon the person.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 615, Pub. L. 91-358, title II, § 210(a); Oct. 26, 1974, 88 Stat. 1456, Pub. L. 93-481, § 4(d).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 23-524.

1973 Ed., § 23-524.

Cross References

Execution of warrants by police force, see § 5-127.05.

Search warrants in narcotic drug cases, see § 48-902.04.


§ 23–525. Disposition of property.

A law enforcement officer or a designated civilian employee of the Metropolitan Police Department who seizes property in the execution of a search warrant shall cause it to be safely kept for use as evidence. No property seized shall be released or destroyed except in accordance with law and upon order of a court or of the United States attorney or Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia [Attorney General for the District of Columbia] or one of their assistants.


(July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 616, Pub. L. 91-358, title II, § 210(a); June 12, 1999, D.C. Law 12-284, § 8(a), 46 DCR 1328.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 23-525.

1973 Ed., § 23-525.

Cross References

Disposition of drugs seized under Uniform Narcotic Drug Act, see § 48-902.08.

Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982, property subject to forfeiture under Act, see § 48-1104.

Property Clerk of Metropolitan Police Department, powers and duties, see §§ 5-119.01 to 5-119.07.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 8(a) of the Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization and Street Solicitation for Prostitution Emergency Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-428, August 6, 1998, 45 DCR 5884).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 8(a) of the Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization Legislative Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-506, November 10, 1998, 45 DCR 8139), and § 8(a) of the Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-13, February 8, 1999, 46 DCR 2333).

Temporary Legislation

Section 8(a) of D.C. Law 12-282 substituted “A law enforcement officer or a designated civilian employee of the Metropolitan Police Department” for “An officer or agent.”

Section 13(b) of D.C. Law 12-282 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.