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What time should search warrants be served?

Sec. 9. Time of making search. — The warrant must direct that it be served in the day time, unless the affidavit asserts that the property is on the person or in the place ordered to be searched, in which case a direction may be inserted that it be served at any time of the day or night. (Rule 126, Rules of Court)

● The general rule is that search warrants must be served during the daytime. However, the rule allows an exception, namely, a search at any reasonable hour of the day or night, when the application asserts that the property is on the person or place ordered to be searched. In the instant case, the judge issuing the warrant relied on the positive assertion of the applicant and his witnesses that the firearms and ammunition were kept at private respondents residence. Evidently, the court issuing the warrant was satisfied that the affidavits of the applicants clearly satisfied the requirements of Section 8, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court. The rule on issuance of a search warrant allows for the exercise of judicial discretion in fixing the time within which the warrant may be served, subject to the statutory requirement fixing the maximum time for the execution of a warrant. We have examined the application for search warrant, and the deposition of the witnesses supporting said application, and find that both satisfactorily comply with the requirements of Section 8, Rule 126. The inescapable conclusion is that the judge who issued the questioned warrant did not abuse his discretion in allowing a search at any reasonable hour of the day or night. Absent such abuse of discretion, a search conducted at night where so allowed, is not improper.

As prescribed in Adm. Circular No. 13 of the Supreme Court dated October 1, 1985:

e. Search warrants must be in duplicate, both signed by the judge. The duplicate copy thereof must be given to the person against whom the warrant is issued and served. Both copies of the warrant must indicate the date until when the warrant shall be valid and must direct that it be served in the daytime. If the judge is satisfied that the property is in the person or in the place ordered to be searched, a direction may be inserted in the warrants that it be served at any time of the day or night. 

But was the time during which the search was effected reasonable?

Petitioner submits that 7:30 P.M. is a reasonable time for executing a search warrant in the metropolis. We find no reason to declare the contrary. The exact time of the execution of a warrant should be left to the discretion of the law enforcement officers. And in judging the conduct of said officers, judicial notice may be taken not just of the realities of law enforcement, but also the prevailing conditions in the place to be searched. We take judicial notice that 7:30 P.M. in a suburban subdivision in Metro Manila is an hour at which the residents are still up-and-about. To hold said hour as an unreasonable time to serve a warrant would not only hamper law enforcement, but could also lead to absurd results, enabling criminals to conceal their illegal activities by pursuing such activities only at night. (People vs CA, G.R. No. 117412. December 8, 2000)

● The policy behind the prohibition of nighttime searches in the absence of specific judicial authorization is to protect the public from the abrasiveness of official intrusions. A nighttime search is a serious violation of privacy. In the instant case, there is no showing that the search which began at 7:30 P.M. caused an abrupt intrusion upon sleeping residents in the dark or that it caused private respondents family such prejudice as to make the execution of the warrant a voidable act. In finding that the duration of the search could have caused inconvenience for private respondents family, the appellate court resorted to surmises and conjectures. Moreover, no exact time limit can be placed on the duration of a search. (People vs CA, G.R. No. 117412. December 8, 2000)

● A search warrant violates Rule 126, Sec. 9 if the time for making the search is left blank, thus enabling the officers to conduct the search in the evening of the appointed search, causing untold conveniences to the person searched.

Where a search is to be made during the night time, the authority for executing the same at that time should appear in the directive on the face of the search warrant. (Asian Surety vs. Herrera, G.R. No. L-25232, December 20, 1973)

● The search warrant expressly contained a directive for the police officers to search appellants house at any time of the day or night. Thus, her contention that the search warrant was irregularly enforced as the search was conducted at an unreasonable time (between 1:25 and 2:30 in the morning) has no merit. (People vs Legaspi, G.R. No. 179718, September 17, 2008)

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