Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Justice Administration

Committee Chair

Hughes, Thomas

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Keeling, Deborah

Committee Member

Tewksbury, Richard

Committee Member

Kappeler, Victor


Warrants (Law)--United States; Law enforcement--Psychological aspects; Decision making


Research indicates that search warrants raids increased during the 1990s and continue to be a common enforcement tool for law enforcement. The extant literature does not provide a detailed understanding of why police departments are increasingly using search warrants and in particular why plainclothes detectives are conducting these raids at a higher rate. Furthermore, the research does not provide an understanding for how search warrants are secured and executed by police departments. This research examines the social constructions detectives use to justify and carry out the various stages of the search warrant process. Ethnographic research was used to observe 73 search warrants over a 21 month period. The findings indicate there are five stages to the search warrant process: (1) when detectives seek warrants; (2) obtaining the warrant; (3) preparing for the warrant; (4) executing the warrant; and (5) measuring the warrant’s success. When examining the search warrant process as a whole, the research finds those detectives’ typifications of the need for search warrants rests on the officer safety and the need to secure evidence of criminal activity before it is destroyed. The research also shows the detectives’ emphasis on safety is contradictory as the process detectives use to execute search warrant exposes the detectives to increased and often unnecessary risks.