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What is a search warrant

A search warrant is an order signed by a judge that authorizes the police to search specific places and for specific things. Police officers obtain search warrants by showing a judge that they have probable cause to believe that criminal activity is occurring at the place to be searched or that evidence of a crime is locate there.

As often happens when a search warrant is executed, the police come across contraband or evidence of a crime that is not included in the warrant. When this occurs the police can still seize and use the unlisted items which they discovered as a consequence of a lawful search.

The Fourth Amendment

In the United States, each of us is protected from warrantless searches by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution which states that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

When is a warrant not required

Consent Searches – If you freely an voluntarily agree to the search.

Plain View Searches – No warrant is needed to seize evidence that is in plain view.

Incident to Arrest – After an arrest the police have the right to protect themselves by searching for weapons and to search for evidence that the suspect might destroy.

Emergency Searches – Those situations where the time it would take to get a warrant would jeopardize public safety or result in the loss of important evidence.

Collection of DNA — If you are arrested, a DNA sample may be taken based on the United States Supreme Court case of Maryland vs. King.

Suppressing Evidence From Unlawful Search

A motion to suppress may be filed when the evidence was obtained in violation of a constitutionally protected right.

Cell phones and smart phones

There is a relatively bright line with respect to protecting your digital cell phone content — the police need a warrant to go through your cell phone. The United States Supreme Court has stated that the search of cell phone goes beyond the brief physical search that is necessary for officer safety. This is because when it comes to private information, most cell phones will reveal more about a person than would the most exhaustive search of that person’s house.

Contact an experienced constitutional rights lawyer

To discuss how our law firm can help protect your constitutional rights, or to set up a confidential initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 601-957-3101.