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Search Warrants With E-Signatures Come to California

The Butte County, Calif., District Attorney’s Office announced that local judges now can sign off on search warrants with e-signatures.

by / April 6, 2012

In a criminal investigation, time can be of the essence. So to speed up the process for approving search warrants, the Butte County, Calif., District Attorney’s Office announced it has implemented e-signature technology so judges can sign off on search warrants more quickly.

Butte County DA Mike Ramsey said moving to digital signature technology was a significant step — a move he believes made Butte the first county in California to adopt the e-signature technology for search warrants.

In 2010, California law was amended to allow for electronic signatures to be used for warrant authorization.

In the past, local officers had to prepare search warrant affidavits and orders, then they had to be reviewed by a deputy district attorney. Once reviewed, the paperwork was physically taken to a judge’s office or home for the judge’s review and handwritten signature. Because of the distance between an officer’s location and a judge’s office or home, the physical transportation of those documents could add an hour or more to the process of obtaining a search warrant.

For after-hours use, judges are issued iPads for reviewing and signing off on search warrants, according to the announcement.

The county selected DocuSign — a California-based company — for the digital signature capability. Government entities such as the city of Seattle, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada already have implemented DocuSign.

According to the company, officers don’t need to install or learn additional software. After an officer sends in the search warrant authorization request, the officer can enter a judge’s contact information, which then is immediately sent to the judge for the digital signature – a process that can take only minutes to complete.

“Law enforcement locally is constantly searching for new and innovative ways to cut costs and increase public safety,” Ramsey said in a statement. “This is just another step on that path.”

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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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