IA search warrant valid even though officer inadvertently fails to sign application

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: criminal law.

State of Iowa v. Maurce D. Angel and Kemia B. McDowell. IA criminal law

The detective in this case prepared a search warrant application and brought it before a judicial officer. In the presence of the judicial officer, he orally swore that it was true and correct. However, he neglected to sign the warrant application. Four days later, the warrant was issued. The defendants sought to set aside their convictions on the grounds that the warrant violated Iowa Code 808.3.

The case made its way to the Iowa Supreme Court, which held that the warrant was valid, despite the inadvertent failure to sign the application. In particular, the high court noted that the statute requires merely that the application be "supported by the person's oath or affirmation," and that the statute does not state that the oath or affirmation must be in writing.

The court noted that the "better practice" would have been for the applicant to sign the application in the magistrate's presence. But under the wording of the statute, the inadvertent failure to do so was not fatal to the warrant.

No. 15-1830 (Iowa April 21, 2017).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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