Search-Warrant Process Seems Shrouded in Secrecy in Vermont


A shroud of secrecy covers much of the search-warrant process in Vermont, reports the Burlington Free Press. Vermont police obtain hundreds of search warrants each year to enter private homes and businesses, to record conversations secretly, and to obtain GPS tracking information on personal vehicles — but nobody keeps track of the numbers or the results of the warrants. The police who seek the warrants, the prosecutors who review the requests, and the state judges who ultimately must approve them all say they are not required to provide any type of annual report or compile any statistics about search warrants.

Warrants are obtained behind closed doors, the files are often sealed or withheld unless an arrest is made, and nobody in the criminal justice system is monitoring whether police provide the court an inventory of items taken during the search as required by the warrant. Chris Brock, clerk of Vermont Superior Court in Burlington, said only cases with criminal defendants are assigned docket numbers — that is, an official identifier in court records — and warrants themselves do not qualify. “We do not track search warrants,” Brock said.

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