Code of the District of Columbia

§ 48–921.02. Search warrants; issuance, execution and return; property inventory; filing of proceedings; interference with service.

(a) Except as provided in subsection (a-1) of this section, a search warrant may be issued by any judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia or by a United States Magistrate for the District of Columbia when any controlled substances are manufactured, possessed, controlled, sold, prescribed, administered, dispensed, or compounded, in violation of the provisions of the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 [D.C. Law 4-29], and any such controlled substances and any other property designed for use in connection with such unlawful manufacturing, possession, controlling, selling, prescribing, administering, dispensing, or compounding may be seized thereunder, and shall be subject to such disposition as the Court may make thereof and such controlled substances may be taken on the warrant from any house or other place in which they are concealed.

(a-1) A search warrant shall not be issued if the sole basis for its issuance would be the possession or transfer without remuneration of marijuana weighing one ounce or less.

(b) A search warrant cannot be issued but upon probable cause supported by affidavit particularly describing the property and the place to be searched.

(c) The judge or Magistrate must, before issuing the warrant, examine on oath the complainant and any witnesses he may produce, and require their affidavits or take their depositions in writing and cause them to be subscribed by the parties making them.

(d) The affidavits or depositions must set forth the facts tending to establish the grounds of the application or probable cause for believing that they exist.

(e) If the judge or Magistrate is thereupon satisfied of the existence of the grounds of the application or that there is probable cause to believe their existence, he shall issue a search warrant, signed by him, to the Chief of Police of the District of Columbia or any member of the Metropolitan Police Department, the Chief or any member of the District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department, or the Chief or any member of the United States Park Police, stating the particular grounds or probable cause for its issue and the names of the persons whose affidavits have been taken in support thereof, and commanding the Chief of Police or member of the Metropolitan Police Department, the Chief or member of the District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department, or the Chief or member of the United States Park Police forthwith to search the place named for the property specified and to bring it before the judge or Magistrate.

(f) A search warrant may in all cases be served by any of the officers mentioned in its direction, but by no other person, except in aid of the officer on his requiring it, he being present and acting in its execution.

(g) The officer may break open any outer or inner door or window of a house, or any part of a house, or anything therein, to execute the warrant, if, after notice of his authority and purpose, he is refused admittance.

(h) The judge or Magistrate shall insert a direction in the warrant that it may be served at any time in the day or night.

(i) A search warrant must be executed and returned to the judge or Magistrate who issued it within 10 days after its date; after the expiration of this time the warrant, unless executed, is void.

(j) When the officer or the designated civilian employee of the Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department, or the United States Park Police takes property under the warrant, he must give a copy of the warrant together with a receipt for the property taken (specifying it in detail) to the person from whom it was taken by him, or in whose possession it was found; or in the absence of any person, he must leave it in the place where he found the property.

(k) The officer or the designated civilian employee of the Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department, or the United States Park Police must forthwith return the warrant to the judge or Magistrate and deliver to him a written inventory of the property taken, made publicly or in the presence of the person from whose possession it was taken, and of the applicant for the warrant, if they are present, verified by the affidavit of the officer at the foot of the inventory and taken before the judge or Magistrate at the time, to the following in effect: “I, , the officer by whom this warrant was executed, do swear that the above inventory contains a true and detailed account of all the property taken by me on the warrant.”

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(l) The judge or Magistrate must thereupon, if required, deliver a copy of the inventory to the person from whose possession the property was taken and to the applicant for the warrant.

(m) The judge or Magistrate must annex the affidavits, search warrant, return, inventory, and evidence, and at once file the same, together with a copy of the record of his proceedings, with the Clerk of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

(n) Whoever shall knowingly and willfully obstruct, resist, or oppose any such officer or person in serving or attempting to serve or execute any such search warrant, or shall assault, beat, or wound any such officer or person, knowing him to be an officer or person so authorized, shall be fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or imprisoned not more than 2 years.


(June 20, 1938, 52 Stat. 792, ch. 532, § 14; Apr. 1, 1942, 56 Stat. 190, ch. 207, § 1; July 24, 1956, 70 Stat. 620, ch. 676, title III, § 301(k); July 8, 1963, 77 Stat. 77, Pub. L. 88-60, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 570, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 155(a); Aug. 5, 1981, D.C. Law 4-29, § 604(b)(4), 28 DCR 3081; Nov. 17, 1981, D.C. Law 4-52, § 3(d), 28 DCR 4348; Aug. 2, 1983, D.C. Law 5-24, § 14, 30 DCR 3341; May 10, 1989, D.C. Law 7-231, § 42(b), 36 DCR 492; June 13, 1990, D.C. Law 8-138, § 4, 37 DCR 2638; Mar. 7, 1991, D.C. Law 8-227, § 3, 38 DCR 224; June 12, 1999, D.C. Law 12-284, § 11, 46 DCR 1328; Apr. 12, 2005, D.C. Law 15-337, § 3, 52 DCR 2278; June 11, 2013, D.C. Law 19-317, § 252 [252a], 60 DCR 2064; July 17, 2014, D.C. Law 20-126, § 407(a), 61 DCR 3482.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 33-565.

1973 Ed., § 33-414.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 15-337 rewrote subsec. (e); and, in subsecs. (j) and (k), substituted “Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department, or the United States Park Police” for “Metropolitan Police Department”.

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-317 substituted “not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01” for “not more than $1,000” in (n).

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-126 added “Except as provided in subsection (a-1) of this section” in (a); and added (a-1).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary amendment of section, see § 11 of the Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization and Street Solicitation for Prostitution Emergency Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-428, August 6, 1998, 45 DCR 5884), § 11 of the Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization Legislative Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Act 12-506, November 10, 1998, 45 DCR 8139), and § 11 of the Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999 (D.C. Act 13-13, February 8, 1999, 46 DCR 2333).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department Emergency Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Act 15-555, October 26, 2004, 51 DCR 10367).

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2005 (D.C. Act 16-35, February 17, 2005, 52 DCR 3024).

For temporary (90 days) amendment of this section, see the second § 252 of the Criminal Fine Proportionality Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-45, April 1, 2013, 60 DCR 5400, 20 DCSTAT 1300).

Temporary Legislation

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 11 of Metropolitan Police Department Civilianization Temporary Amendment Act of 1998 (D.C. Law 12-282, May 28, 1999, law notification 46 DCR 5148).

For temporary (225 day) amendment of section, see § 2 of District of Columbia Housing Authority Police Department Temporary Amendment Act of 2004 (D.C. Law 15-249, March 17, 2005, law notification 52 DCR 4125).

References in Text

“The District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981,” referred to near the middle of subsection (a), is D.C. Law 4-29.

Editor's Notes

Former § 33-514 was redesignated to be § 33-565, 1981 Ed. upon enactment of D.C. Law 4-29.

Office of Major and Superintendent of Metropolitan Police abolished: The Office of the Major and Superintendent of Metropolitan Police was abolished and all functions of that office transferred to and vested in the Chief of Police. The Assistant Superintendent, Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Police Department was designated “Deputy Chief of Police, Executive Officer”; the Assistant Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police in command of the Detective Bureau was designated “Deputy Chief of Police, Chief of Detectives”; and each other Assistant Superintendent of the Metropolitan Police was designated “Deputy Chief of Police” by Reorganization Order No. 7, dated September 16, 1952. Reorganization Order No. 7 was replaced by Organization Order No. 153, dated November 10, 1966.

Mayor to implement public information program: See Historical and Statutory Notes following § 48-901.02.

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-317: Section 401 of D.C. Law 19-317 provided that the act shall apply only to offenses committed on or after June 11, 2013.

Section 501 of D.C. Law 20-126 provided that the Mayor, pursuant to subchapter I of Chapter 5 of Title 2 [§ 2-501 et seq.], may issue rules to implement the provisions of the act.

Initiative 71, the Legalization of Possession of Minimal Amounts of Marijuana for Personal Use Initiative of 2014, is D.C. Bill No. 20-1064 and D.C. Act 20-565, published at 62 D.C. Reg. 880, and became D.C. Law 20-153 on February 26, 2015, after a period of Congressional review.

Section 2 of D.C. Law 20-153 amended subsection (a) to read as follows:

“(a)(1) Except as authorized by this chapter or Chapter 16B of Title 7 [§ 7-1671.01 et seq.], it is unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to manufacture, distribute, or possess, with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance. Notwithstanding any provision of this chapter to the contrary, it shall be lawful, and shall not be an offense under District of Columbia law, for any person 21 years of age or older to:

“(A) Possess, use, purchase, or transport marijuana weighing 2 ounces or less;

“(B) Transfer to another person 21 years of age or older, without remuneration, marijuana weighing one ounce or less;

“(C) Possess, grow, harvest, or process, within the interior of a house or rental unit that constitutes such person's principal residence, no more than 6 cannabis plants, with 3 or fewer being mature, flowering plants; provided, that all persons residing within a single house or single rental unit may not possess, grow, harvest, or process, in the aggregate, more than 12 cannabis plants, with 6 or fewer being mature, flowering plants;

“(D) Possess within such house or rental unit the marijuana produced by such plants; provided that, nothing in this subsection shall make it lawful to sell, offer for sale, or make available for sale any marijuana or cannabis plants.

“(1A)(A) The terms ‘controlled substance’ and ‘controlled substances,’ as used in the District of Columbia Official Code, shall not include:

“(i) Marijuana that is or was in the personal possession of a person 21 years of age or older at any specific time if the total amount of marijuana that is or was in the possession of that person at that time weighs or weighed 2 ounces or less;

“(ii) Cannabis plants that are or were grown, possessed, harvested, or processed by a person 21 years of age or older within the interior of a house or rental unit that constitutes or at the time constituted, such person's principal residence, if such person at that time was growing no more than 6 cannabis plants with 3 or fewer being mature flowering plants and if all persons residing within that single house or single rental unit at that time did not possess, grow, harvest, or process, in the aggregate, more than 12 cannabis plants, with 6 or fewer being mature, flowering plants; or

“(iii) The marijuana produced by the plants which were grown, possessed, harvested, or processed by a person who was, pursuant to sub-subparagraph (ii) of this subparagraph, permitted to grow, possess, harvest, and process such plants, if such marijuana is or was in the personal possession of that person who is growing or grew such plants, within the house or rental unit in which the plants are or were grown.

“(B) Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph, the terms ‘controlled substance’ and ‘controlled substances,’ as used in the District of Columbia Official Code, shall include any marijuana or cannabis plant sold or offered for sale or made available for sale.

“(1B) Notwithstanding any other provision of the District of Columbia Official Code, no District government agency or office shall limit or refuse to provide any facility service, program, or benefit to any person based upon or by reason of conduct that is made lawful by this subsection.

“(1C) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to require any District government agency or office, or any employer, to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of any such agency, office, or employer to establish and enforce policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.

“(1D) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to permit driving under the influence of marijuana or driving while impaired by use or ingestion of marijuana or to modify or affect the construction or application of any provision of the District of Columbia Official Code related to driving under the influence of marijuana or driving while impaired by marijuana.

“(1E) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit any person, business, corporation, organization, or other entity, or District government agency or office, who or which occupies, owns, or controls any real property, from prohibiting or regulating the possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana on or in that property.

“(1F) Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to make unlawful any conduct permitted by Chapter 16B of Title 7 [§ 7-1671.01 et seq.].

“(2) Any person who violates this subsection with respect to:

“(A) A controlled substance classified in Schedule I or II that is a narcotic or abusive drug shall be imprisoned for not more than 30 years or fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, or both;

“(B) Any other controlled substance classified in Schedule I, II, or III, except for a narcotic or abusive drug, is guilty of a crime and upon conviction may be imprisoned for not more than 5 years, fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, or both; except that upon conviction of manufacturing, distributing or possessing with intent to distribute ½ pound or less of marijuana, a person who has not previously been convicted of manufacturing, distributing or possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance or attempting to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance may be imprisoned for not more than 180 days or fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01 or both;

“(C) A substance classified in Schedule IV, is guilty of a crime and upon conviction may be imprisoned for not more than 3 years, fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, or both; or

“(D) A substance classified in Schedule V, is guilty of a crime and upon conviction may be imprisoned for not more than one year, fined not more than the amount set forth in § 22-3571.01, or both.”

Section 3 of D.C. Law 20-153 amended § 48-1103.

Section 4 of D.C. Law 20-153 provided that the amounts of the fines set forth in § 22-3571.01 and § 48-1103 shall be adjusted through implementing or amending legislation enacted by the Council of the District of Columbia to the extent necessary to ensure that the act does not negate or limit any act of the Council of the District of Columbia pursuant to § 1-204.46.