What is the legal test for particularity in a search warrant?

California, United States of America

The following excerpt is from People v. Mitchell, F076674 (Cal. App. 2020):

"However, a warrant 'need only be reasonably specific' [citation], and 'the specificity required "varies depending on the circumstances of the case and the type of items involved."' [Citations.] The constitutional and statutory requirements of particularity are satisfied if the warrant 'imposes a meaningful restriction upon the objects to be seized.' [Citation.] The requirement of reasonable particularity 'is a flexible concept, reflecting the degree of detail available from the facts known to the affiant and presented to the issuing magistrate.'" (People v. Robinson, supra, 47 Cal.4th at p. 1132.)

"'[T]he requirement that a search warrant describe its objects with particularity is a standard of "practical accuracy" rather than a hypertechnical one.' [Citations.] The rule against excessive parsing of the language used in a warrant (while retaining the rule that items to be seized be identified in a warrant with constitutionally required specificity, so that the police do not engage in unfettered rummaging through a person's effects) militates in favor of truthfinding in criminal investigations, a value of significant importance to the public safety and societal order." (People v. Superior Court (Nasmeh) (2007) 151 Cal.App.4th 85, 96.)

"Whether a warrant's description of property to be seized is sufficiently particular is a question of law subject to independent review by an appellate court. [Citation.] In considering whether a warrant is sufficiently particular, courts consider the purpose of the warrant, the nature of the items sought, and 'the total circumstances surrounding the case.'" (People v. Eubanks (2011) 53 Cal.4th 110, 133.)

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