After a Search Warrant: The First Thing You Should Do
Getting a search warrant executed on your home or business can be a scary, overwhelming experience. People often get panic and have no idea how to deal with the situation. Here, we have have come up with some tips to help you handle this situation better!
Review the Warrant Carefully
First of all you should review the search warrant. Make sure it has the correct address listed – you don’t want the police searching the wrong location by mistake! Carefully read what areas the warrant allows the police to search and what items they are looking for. Police can only search the areas and for the items listed on the warrant. If they try going beyond what’s on the warrant, politely remind them they need to stay within the scope of the search warrant. Officials often try to infiltrate with things in your house that are not listed in the warrant but you have all the rights to refuse them.
Document the Search
Have someone take detailed notes, photos, or video of the search as it happens. Note what rooms or areas the police search, any damage done, and what items are seized. Get badge numbers and names of all officers present. Having documentation of how the search is conducted can help if you need to challenge the legality of the search later on.
It can be tempting to get upset when police raid your home or business, but it’s important not to interfere with their search. Doing anything to obstruct police or destroy evidence could lead to criminal charges. Be polite and let them do their job – you’ll have your chance to fight back in court later if anything improper occurred.
Get an Inventory List
Police must provide an inventory list of any items seized in the search. Review it carefully – are any items missing? Did police take anything beyond what was listed in the original warrant? Ask for a copy of the inventory for your records.
Call a Lawyer
Call a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after the search warrant is executed. Do not say anything to police without a lawyer present. Your lawyer can review the warrant, advise if your rights were violated, and begin working on options to suppress any illegally obtained evidence.
Secure Your Home/Business
After police execute a search warrant, you may be left with damage or insecure doors and windows. Document damage with photos/video and take reasonable steps to secure your home or business so no one can enter while it’s vulnerable. Save repair receipts.
Get Copies of the Warrant Affidavit
The search warrant affidavit is the document police submit to a judge to establish probable cause for the warrant. It often contains key details about the investigation and police suspicions. Get a copy of the affidavit from your lawyer or the court clerk’s office.
Don’t Discuss the Case
Do not discuss details of the investigation with anyone other than your lawyer. What you say to friends, family, or co-workers could potentially be used against you. Police may be monitoring your communications. Keep quiet until you have expert legal advice.
Evaluate Your Exposure
Meet with your lawyer to realistically evaluate your potential criminal exposure from the investigation. Your lawyer can review the warrant, explain possible charges, and discuss defenses and options moving forward. Don’t panic – there may be perfectly valid explanations.
Weigh the Pros and Cons of Speaking to Police
In some cases it may be in your best interest to provide a statement to police, while in other cases remaining silent is better. Your lawyer can advise what approach is likely to lead to the best outcome for your specific situation.
Begin Preparing Your Defense
Start gathering documents, financial records, communications, and other evidence that may help refute any allegations against you. Also preserve any evidence of police misconduct during the search that could lead to suppression of evidence.
Get Support from Family and Friends
Having your property searched by police can be traumatic. Lean on trusted family and friends for emotional support during this difficult time. Talk to them about how they can best help you through the ordeal.
Don’t Try to Destroy Evidence
It may be tempting to start shredding documents or deleting files, but doing so can lead to obstruction of justice charges. You have constitutional rights – let your lawyer fight this the proper way. Destroying evidence will only cause bigger problems.
Consider Therapy or Counseling
Being the target of a criminal investigation can take a psychological toll. Don’t be afraid to speak to a therapist or counselor if you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or trauma related to the search warrant. They can help you cope.
Legal issues rarely get resolved overnight. Expect that it may take weeks or months for your lawyer to get charges dropped or evidence suppressed. Don’t expect quick fixes. Maintain patience and let your lawyer do their job.