Monday, July 30, 2007
Just days ago the press was reporting that Senator Ted Stevens (R. Alaska) was under scrutiny. The scrutiny appears to have increased with the recent search of his residence in Alaska. (See Washington Post here; Yahoo News here) This search required a showing of probable cause, approval by a judge, and execution of the search warrant by the feds. There are several interesting things to point out here -
1. In many white collar cases, the government uses its subpoena powers to secure documents. It is less common that we see searches being used in white collar cases. In recent years, however, searches have been in seen in everything from environmental to corruption investigations.
2. The benefit of a subpoena is that probable cause is unnecessary and there is no requirement of court approval prior to issuing the subpoena. The feds also do not have to search the premises for certain documents when the items are produced by the subpoenaed individual.
3. A benefit of using a search is the surprise factor. Items cannot be destroyed when the search occurs without notice. There is also the possibility that the government may observe other evidence in plain view while conducting the search.
So did the government not trust the Senator, and was there a fear that he would destroy evidence in making the decision to proceed with a search as opposed to asking him to produce documents to a grand jury? Or was this such a high profile case that the government wanted court approvals? In either event, what is on the premises of this Senator that warrants this extreme invasion?