1. When a law enforcement officer states that he or she has a search warrant, the person at the reception desk should be alerted to call the editor on duty to meet the officer, to call the reporter or other person who may be named in the warrant, and to ask the officer to wait until the editor or other person in charge can meet the officer at the desk.
2. When the editor receives word that the law enforcement officer is present with a warrant, he or she should immediately call a lawyer for the newspaper, ask another editor to contact the publisher, and find an available reporter and photographer with his or her camera to meet with the editor at the reception desk.
3. Always remember that if the material sought is not confidential or sensitive, it may be preferable to decide to turn it over and thus avoid having an outsider rummage through unrelated sensitive or confidential materials.
4. The editor or person in charge should make a copy of the search warrant and any accompanying documents at once, if possible, and get the copy to the editor who is in contact on the telephone with the newspaper's lawyer.
5. The editor should examine the search warrant to see if it meets the formal requirements set forth above. If it does not, you should politely challenge the warrant and tell the officer you believe it is invalid. If the officer insists that the search will go on, politely advise him that he personally may be responsible for any damages caused by the search.
6. Even if the warrant is apparently valid, explain to the officer that you would like an opportunity to consult with the newspaper's lawyer in an effort to obtain a court hearing. Explain that this is not a stalling tactic to allow time for the material to be hidden or destroyed, and present the officer with a written statement of company policy to that effect.
7. If the officer is unwilling to wait before carrying out the search, advise him or her that the search will be recorded by the newspaper's reporters and photographers and that immediate legal action will be taken to recover any material seized and to sue for damages caused by the search. Emphasize to the officer that the search threatens the confidentiality of material privileged under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the functioning of the newspaper.
8. Although, as noted above, you may decide to hand over the material to avoid rummaging by a searching officer, remember that no one at the newspaper is under any legal obligation to assist the officers in the search. A search warrant is not a subpoena requiring testimony, and you need not give the officers any information or answer any of their questions.
9. Get the name and badge number of every officer who is present.
10. At no time consent or otherwise agree to the search.
11. If the search is of a reporter or other employee's home, person or vehicle, the reporter or editor should notify the managing editor and the newspaper's lawyer as soon as possible and follow the above guidelines where possible.
12. Note that safe deposit boxes, lawyers' offices and similar depositories are just as susceptible to search warrants as the newspaper office, homes of reporters and automobiles.
13. Whenever the newspaper obtains possession of highly sensitive material, you should consult with your editor and lawyer with respect to its handling.
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