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Search Warrants: The Basics



A search warrant is a court-issued document that permits law enforcement officers to search a person or property and premises belonging to that person. Search warrants are issued for the purpose of gathering and removing potential items of evidence.

What Is A Search Warrant

Search warrants are typically served in connection with criminal investigations. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that search warrants cannot be obtained without sufficient probable cause to believe the search of a person or property is warranted. The standard by which a search warrant can be obtained is known as probable cause. Search warrants must be reasonable and specific as to the items sought during the search.

Are There Exceptions To A Search Warrant

There are several exceptions to the issuance of a search warrant. If you consent to a search of your person or premises, a search warrant may not be necessary. In emergency situations, law enforcement personnel may enter a residence if there is evidence to believe a person may be in danger of bodily harm or injury. Many jurisdictions allow law enforcement to search the vehicle of a person who is arrested after a routine traffic stop. In these instances, vehicles are typically searched for drugs or weapons that could be used to commit a crime.

What Should I Do If I Am Served With A Search Warrant

You have rights before allowing entry into your home. You have the right to examine the search warrant to make sure the information is correct. Although it is an intimidating and frightening experience to have your premises searched, draw upon your strengths to get through the ordeal. If you act in a respectful manner, you may be able to avoid damage to your property. Law enforcement officers may use search warrants to intimidate you. Remain quiet and do not engage in dialogue with the officers. The majority of search warrants are served before an arrest is made, so do not volunteer any information that can be used against you if criminal charges are brought.

You should request a copy of the search warrant, which lists specific items to be confiscated. Items cannot be taken unless there is probably cause. It is a good idea to take notes and photographs during the search or immediately after the search has concluded. Documentation can assist your criminal defense attorney in defending you if you are charged with a crime.