Understanding Search Warrants: Expertise Statements

July 17, 2023
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In our previous blog post of the “Understanding Search Warrants” series, About the search warrant document, we explored the composition and importance of search warrant documents, with a specific focus on affidavits. Today, we shed light on a crucial and often misunderstood element known as the affiant’s Expertise Statement.

Trust me Judge, I know what I’m talking about…

An affiant’s expertise statement is basically a declaration made by the affiant about their professional knowledge and skills related to the specific case. Think of it as a mini résumé within the affidavit, showing off the affiant’s qualifications and relevant experience. These statements are commonly called “hero sheets” or “brag sheets.”

Officers often have a tendency to include every training they’ve ever attended in their expertise statements. While it’s important to attend annual Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) training and First Aid updates, not all of these trainings directly relate to the specific matter you’re applying for a search warrant. Adding unnecessary training records just makes the affidavit longer without adding much value.

Baselline Expertise

Every affiant’s expertise statement sets a minimum level of proficiency required to present a case in court. It’s like the solid foundation of a house, providing essential support for everything else. The baseline includes two important points:

  • I’m a sworn Peace Officer qualified to apply for a warrant.
  • I have investigated crimes, seized evidence, and made arrests.

A baseline statement shows the court you have law enforcement training like academy completion, years of service, and the types of crimes you’ve successfully dealt with. This info helps the court understand that you are qualified to bring the matter before the court.

Specialty Statements

Affiants are encouraged to include specialty statements in their expertise. These statements highlight the specific training and experience directly related to the crime you’re investigating. For example, let’s say it’s a drug trafficking case. You might want to showcase your expertise in drug identification, your involvement in drug investigations, and your deep understanding of how those sneaky drug traffickers operate. These specialty statements give the court a complete picture of your specialized knowledge and show why you’re the perfect fit for handling that particular case.

So, why does all this matter? Affiant expertise statements are a big deal when it comes to the court deciding whether or not to issue a search warrant. They give insights into your qualifications and the reasoning behind your beliefs about the case. While judges have a lot of knowledge, they rely on the expertise and experience of expert officers like you who are out there in the field. Some officers even have court-certified Subject Matter Expert (SME) status which adds extra weight to their testimony, whether written in an affidavit or spoken in court. Usually, these expertise statements are placed near the beginning of the affidavit, setting the tone for the whole warrant as the judge starts reviewing it.

By emphasizing your expertise with well-crafted statements, you establish your credibility and shape the court’s perception of the warrant. Your thoroughness and professionalism in presenting your expertise can make a significant impact on the judge’s decision-making process.

Want to learn more about search warrants? Follow our blog series to learn more about how search warrants work, tips & tricks for writing great warrants, and insights on evidence that law enforcement can collect. There is a lot to learn, so rely on the experts at WarrantBuilder.com!  Sign up for a free trial and learn why cops across the country trust Warrant Builder for fast, efficient, and complete search warrants.