Since police officers are intimidating figures, many people comply with whatever officers demand.
These people allow police to search their person or their homes without objection, even if the police don’t have a valid search warrant.
However, you should never give police explicit permission to search you or your property.
You have a constitutionally protected right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
It’s critical for any criminal suspect to understand what can make a search warrant invalid and to fight an illegal search or seizure.
So how do you fight a search warrant? I help clients fight search warrants to protect their property and privacy. Keep reading, and I’ll fill you in on the basics of search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
As a criminal defense attorney, I hear these questions from my clients:
The police told me they have a search warrant; what is it and what did they need to do to get it?
Are search warrants required for every search?
What can make a search warrant invalid?
What powers do the police have when they get a search warrant?
During a traffic stop, can the police search my car and frisk me?
My car was towed and impounded; can the police search it?
How can an attorney help?
Here, I’ll share the answers to those questions. If you’d like more legal information about your case, give me a call for a free consultation.
The Police Told Me They Have A Search Warrant; What Is It And What Did They Need To Do To Get It?
A search warrant is a document, issued by a judge, that gives police permission to search a place or person and seize evidence of a crime. To get a search warrant, the police have to present the judge with an affidavit.
The affidavit states that:
There is probable cause (it is likely) that a crime occurred, and
Evidence of the crime is likely to be found at/on the location or person named.
The search warrant must list specific things the police expect to find. It can’t give police general permission to search your house looking for evidence of any crime. Being too broad is an example of what can make a search warrant invalid.
A warrant based on false information may be used if the police reasonably believed that the search warrant was valid. However, the police cannot make a fake arrest warrant.
Are Search Warrants Required For Every Search; What Can Make A Search Warrant Invalid?
Search warrants are not required for every search. Many exceptions allow police to search without a warrant.
Exigency means that there is an emergency that justifies the search. If the police think someone is in danger, they can search without a warrant. If the police are in hot pursuit of a suspect, they can follow the suspect into a private residence.
Destruction Of Evidence
If the police think you are destroying evidence, they can search without a warrant. For instance, imagine police knock on your door as part of a drug investigation and hear a toilet repeatedly flushing. The police might believe that you are flushing drugs down the toilet and barge in without a search warrant.
If you consent to the search, then it is legal. An experienced criminal defense attorney might be able to show that your consent resulted from police coercion.
Search Incident To Arrest
When police have cause to arrest you, they can search you and your immediate surroundings. The police have justification for this search to look for weapons that might endanger them. This does not mean police have permission to search your entire home—just the area where you might reach for weapons.