Term of the Day

Sobriety Checkpoints

Sobriety Checkpoints are locations along a roadway where police officers will request vehicles to momentarily to stop in order to check each driver for signs of intoxication or impairment.

Search Warrant

Definition - What does Search Warrant mean?

What is a search warrant?

A search warrant is a document that can be issued by a judge or other government officials that gives the police or some other authority, the ability to make an arrest, search a premises, or perform any other action with respect to the administration of justice. A search warrant is used in order to allow a police officer to search somewhere without the owner’s permission or consent. A search warrant will almost always fall under a legal fourth amendment search. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, usually reserved for extreme cases.

What requirements need to be met to issue a search warrant?

The only people can issue a search warrant are judges and magistrates. A police officer must approach the judge or magistrate and provide the place that they will search and the specific items that they are attempting to seize. The judge must then consider the circumstances and situation before making a final decision on the weather not issue a search warrant. Officers do not need to show that the people being searched have committed crime to get a search warrant. However, they do need to show what is called “probable cause” which essentially says that whatever items are evidence they are looking for are there, thus making the search warrant justified.

What is the “knock-and-announce rule”?

In most cases police officers may not just enter the residence or other property. Before the police officer can execute a search warrant on the premises, they must knock on the door, and then state who they are and what they are there for. After a reasonable amount of time with no response from the person inside, they may then begin conducting the search warrant and enter the building using force. This rule doesn’t always have to be followed though, a police officer can enter a premises without knocking and announcing if it is still a “reasonable” search, by not breaking the Fourth Amendment. A special no-knock search warrant can also be issued, at the request of a police officer, if the judge decides that the situation justifies a no-knock search warrant.

What happens during a search warrant execution?

A search warrant will usually be executed during the daytime. The police will knock-and-announce, and then if no one answers, begin a forceful and conduct the search that their search warrant describes. Anyone inside the premises will be detained, and if they were looking for a particular person and the police discover that person, they will be arrested. After the search warrant, the officers who conducted the search must create a list of what was seized and a description of how the search was conducted. This document must be taken to the judge so that the judge can ensure that the search form was executed legally.

Search warrants are designed so the police cannot have too much power. Multiple steps must be taken before a search warrant can be requested. Search warrants are designed to protect your rights, so if you were in a search warrant situation, ask your lawyer about whether or not the search warrant request and the search itself was lawful and reasonable. If the police never requested a search warrant or the search warrant was conducted unconstitutionally, the evidence seized may be invalid.

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