The Indiana General Assembly in 2014 recognized the expanding methods we are using to communicate by amending the statute dealing with search and arrest warrants. House Enrolled Act 1009 (Public Law 170-2014) defined electronic communication service as one that provides users with the ability to send or receive wire or electronic communications.
Judges and law enforcement officers in several Indiana counties have been utilizing modern conveniences such as smartphones and electronic mail to improve the efficiency of traditional search and arrest warrant procedures. These counties are taking advantage of the amendments to Indiana Code 35-33-5-8 that permits a warrant to be issued following a judge’s receipt of supporting sworn testimony via electronic mail or other electronic transmission.
The amended statute authorizes the use of electronic signature by the affiant and the issuing judge on the affidavit and warrant. An electronic signature may be indicated by “s/Affiant’s Name,” “s/Judge’s Name” or by any other electronic means that identifies them and indicates that the affiant or judge adopts the contents of the document to which the electronic signature is affixed.
To implement electronic communication services, judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers are utilizing web-based subscription services. Investigating law enforcement officers may now submit search or arrest warrant applications to a judge in PDF format via e-mail or other electronic transmission. The e-signature service also allows judges, following review of the search or arrest warrant application via iPad, smartphone or PC, to securely sign and make copies of the authorized warrant.
The enabling statute does require the printing and retention of the electronically transmitted copy of the affidavit and warrant sent to the judge as if they were originals.
Electronic signature technology provides another method for law enforcement officers to seek a judicially approved search or arrest warrant. An applicant for a warrant must still present verified testimony of the same facts required for an affidavit, but may do so using electronic mail or other electronic transmission With the emerging electronic filing of documents in courts, society can expect that the judicial system will initiate even more innovations in the future. If there is enough interest from the Indiana judiciary, the court technology team could develop an INcite app for arrest and search warrants that could be compatible with mobile devices.
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