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What Is a Search Warrant?
It is a legal order signed by a neutral magistrate or judicial officer that permits an officer of the law to search for a specific object within a particular location at a specified time. All search warrants must be specific, including an in-depth description of the property permitted for the search.
Has a police officer searched you or someone you know without a warrant? Or, do you feel like the warrant given was invalid? Perhaps you want to conduct a search on someone else!
If you have any questions or concerns regarding search and seizure law, consult an attorney who specializes in this field. That way, you can challenge any invalid warrants issued against you. Protect your rights by learning what makes a search warrant invalid.
The Process of Getting a Search Warrant
To get a warrant, an officer must explain the circumstances of the case to a magistrate, usually through affidavits or oaths.
The law takes into account your absence and your inability to defend yourself in this situation. Therefore, you can challenge any invalid warrant or one wrongly procured by law enforcement.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Search Warrant?
Most areas have a 24-hour magistrate. This means police can obtain a search warrant in just a few hours, possibly sooner.
The Fourth Amendment
The 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees every citizen the right against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but there are exceptions to this rule. However, mostly, this amendment requires that every law officer obtain a valid search warrant before searching you or your property.
Probable cause refers to the legal standard every warrant must live up to. This means that all officers must establish that they have reason to suspect or believe your property warrants a search. For example, if a police officer receives information from a reliable informant or a victim, that may implicate you.
Common Exceptions to the Rule
While in most cases, a search warrant is necessary, in certain exceptional cases, officers may be exempted. Here are a few situations where a warrantless search would not be considered illegal:
- Consensual Search: If the person involved consents to having themselves or their property searched, a warrant is unnecessary.
- Items in Plain View: Searching or seizing illegal objects or obvious evidence in plain sight is not illegal. However, the officer must be present in lawfully, with lawful access to the object.
- Post-Arrest Search: Searching someone immediately after their arrest is well within the law.
- Frisking: Certain areas, such as airports, require mandatory frisking and searching for security reasons.
- Automobiles: If an officer pulls you over, they have the right to search you. However, in this case, they must establish probable cause and reason to suspect hidden evidence or illegal substances in your vehicle.
If police conduct a search without a warrant outside these situations, then they may have infringed on your rights.
If officers violated your rights and you were unlawfully searched, you must find an experienced search warrant attorney in your area as soon as possible.
How Do Officers Execute a Warrant?
Once officers have a valid search warrant, they can execute their search. However, even then, they must respect procedures and limits.
1. Announcing Their Presence and Intent
Before entering your house, the police must announce themselves and the reason for their presence. They can only break in if you deny them access or fail to respond.
2. Staying Within the Scope of the Search Warrant
As explained above, a warrant must be specific. For example, if the warrant only specifies and permits the search of your office, an officer cannot search your house.
Additionally, the search warrant must note a time frame for a permissible search; the officer must respect that time frame. Any violation of time, location, or property clearly infringes your rights.
When Is a Search Illegal?
Police cannot use evidence found during an illegal search against you. An unlawful search occurs in three major scenarios.
- A search conducted without a warrant, unless in the case of legally determined exceptions
- A search conducted with an invalid warrant
- Exceeding the scope of the warrant in a search
All the above are deemed illegal under search and seizure laws. However, specifics may vary from state to state.
When Should You Hire a Lawyer?
Everyone deserves their right to privacy. That is precisely why the 4th Amendment, as well as other search and seizure laws, exist.
Unsure of whether a search warrant was valid? Need help invalidating a warrant? You need advice from someone familiar with search and seizure law who has your best interests at heart. If an unlawful search violated your rights or someone else’s rights, it is time to find a good criminal defense attorney to represent you.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Do you feel like law enforcement wronged you? You could have the option to sue. An attorney who specializes in search and seizure law helps you determine whether you have a case.
Ready to find a criminal defense attorney? Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!