I have been in general frustrated by the lack of easily available documentation surrounding the 1760 Writs of Assistance, and the Writs of Assistance as they appear today in UK legislation, as pointed out below. Readily available is the following:
- They were general search warrants issued to combat smuggling
- No standard of probable cause was necessary
- James Otis didn't like them ("It appears to me the worst instrument of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever was found in an English law book.") and gave up his government position to fight them in court
- He failed legally, but his five-hour oration was the moment when "Child Independence was born," according to the riveted John Adams.
- Today, with small alterations, the Writs are alive and well in the UK.
All of these general statements are fine and helpful, but I can't find out things like:
- Approximately how many times the writs were invoked to search private property
- Any actual examples of the writs being used, in the 18th century or today.