A writ of assistance is a court order to a law enforcement officer, for example, a sheriff, to enforce a prior writ or other order of the court. In colonial America, they were used as an open-ended type of search warrant, later prohibited by the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution. British customs officials used writs of assistance to search colonial homes and businesses for smuggled goods on which import duties had not been paid.
In bankruptcy law, a writ of assistance is an order directing that a party convey, deliver, or turn over a deed, document, or right of ownership. This writ, which may also be called a writ of restitution or writ of possession, is commonly used to evict someone from real property. In addition, if a judgment directs a party to convey land, to deliver a deed or other document, or to perform any other specific act, and the party fails to comply within the time specified, the court may appoint someone else to enforce the order and charge the costs to the disobedient party. In such cases, the act has similar effect as if done by the party.