1. In Washington state, any prosecuting attorney or "peace officer" (a broad category) can obtain a warrant from a judge with jurisdiction over the area where the search is planned. See generally Washington Superior Court Criminal Rules, Rule 2.3. Federal search warrants similarly can be obtained by a government attorney or a federal law enforcement officer from a federal judge or magistrate, or from a state judge. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 41.
2. An affidavit to the court establishing the grounds for the warrant is required. No prior notice of a warrant is given to its subject, and the supporting affidavit need not be served on the subject.
3. There are formal requirements for a valid warrant:
(a) It must be signed by or on behalf of a judge or magistrate with jurisdiction over the premises to be searched.4. The officer named in the warrant must be present at the search, but may be assisted by other officers. A copy of the warrant and a receipt for all items taken must be given to the person in charge of the premises. The warrant must be used within 10 days of issuance.
(b) It must be directed to a named law enforcement officer and must command him or her to search the specified premises.
(c) It must describe the material to be seized and must state that it is in one of the following categories: (i) evidence of a crime; (ii) contraband, the fruits of crime or things otherwise criminally possessed; (iii) weapons or other things by means of which a crime has been committed; (iv) counterfeit materials, forged instruments or materials used in making such materials; (v) any apparatus used for unlawful gaming; (vi) evidence material to the investigation or prosecution of any homicide or felony; (vii) any apparatus used to unlawfully obtain telephone or telegraph service; (viii) if it is between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., a federal warrant must specifically authorize a night search.
5. The law does not provide any specific means for stopping a search in progress. The court rules simply provide for an after-the-fact motion to regain seized property. Since a search can begin as soon as the warrant is handed to you, your only hope of contacting a prosecutor or judge to try to block the search is to persuade the searching officer to stand by voluntarily until such attempts are completed.
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