Search Warrant: What You Need to Know
American citizens are protected from unreasonable search and seizure actions by the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. In order to conduct a search and seizure, law enforcement officers need a valid search warrant.
When Is a Search Warrant Valid?
A judge must issue a search warrant in order for the warrant to be valid. There are specific criteria that must be met before one can be issued. If any of the criteria are not met, the warrant is not valid.
There must be reliable evidence of probable cause that a crime has been committed or that criminal activity is being carried out. For example, if property has been stolen or embezzled, or if an item has been used to commit a crime and there is evidence of this, this would be considered probable cause. Another example would be if there was evidence that laws were violated pertaining to alcohol use and driving.
The warrant must specify the location, premises, or vehicle to be searched and what items will be seized. If the warrant has been issued for searching a vehicle, law enforcement officers may not come into your home to conduct a search.
Law enforcement officers must file an affidavit in good faith to request a warrant. They must specify exactly where the search is to take place and who and/or what will be seized. Judges and courts cannot issue “blank” search warrants. Unless there are affidavits filed by the police showing probable cause, a warrant cannot be issued.
The judge issuing the warrant must be neutral and detached from the case in question. A warrant cannot be issued out of malicious intent or without probable cause.
Executing a Search Warrant
When a search warrant has been issued, law enforcement officers are allowed to do, within reason, whatever is necessary to execute the search and seizure. This means they can break down doors or break windows to gain access to a dwelling, if they are not allowed in after giving due notice of authority and the intent to conduct a search.
Law enforcement officers are also allowed to execute search warrants during the day or night. They may also execute them on Sunday once the warrant has been issued by a judge.
Know Your Rights
Your right to privacy and protection from unreasonable search and seizure are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Without a valid warrant, your vehicle, home, other property, or place of business cannot be searched. If there is probable cause, it is important to cooperate with law enforcement officers when a search warrant has been properly issued.
The Tison Law Group has lawyers experienced in criminal law. We routinely handle a variety of criminal law cases. If you need legal representation to fight against charges brought against you, please contact us via our website or pick up the phone and call. We will fight for your rights and be with you each step along the way.