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What Makes Search Warrants Unconstitutional?

April 1, 2022

In most situations, the only way for an agent to search a property is to first obtain a search warrant. In the event that an agent enters a home or business without obtaining a search warrant, anything they gather from their search could be deemed inadmissible in court. It’s also important to understand that a search warrant existing doesn’t automatically indicate that the warrant is sufficient for the type of search that occurred. For instance, it’s possible that the search went beyond the scope of the search warrant. If the search warrant is found to be deficient, some or all of the gathered evidence could be excluded from the case.

Current Standards for Probable Cause

The only way a search warrant can be valid is for it to be based on some kind of probable cause that resulted in the search. Probable cause is defined by the U.S. Supreme Court as a decent probability that evidence or contraband pertaining to a crime will be located in a specific place. In order for a search warrant to be granted, it will need to be approved by a magistrate who is considered to be impartial.

Before the magistrate can grant the search warrant, they will be tasked with assessing the facts and information that investigators have presented to them about the case in question. The magistrate must determine that probable cause is legitimate in order to issue the search warrant. Keep in mind that this decision can’t be based on outdated information or on information that was obtained during an illegal search.

It’s possible for the defendant to request that the warrant be invalidated in the event that the warrant was issued without probable cause or because the magistrate wasn’t neutral when making the decision. If you believe that a search warrant in your case is unconstitutional, it’s important that you have experienced lawyers by your side who know how to argue this type of case in court. Our lawyers can help you gather the evidence you require to prove the search warrant was unconstitutional.

Search Warrant Specificity

To fully understand how search warrants work, you should know that search warrants can’t be used for wide-ranging searches that are more exploratory in nature. In order for a search warrant to be constitutional, it will need to go into detail about the exact place that’s going to be searched and what items the investigators are looking to seize. When the descriptions contained in a search warrant are too broad and vague, it’s possible for the defendant to make a request that the search warrant be invalidated.

Adherence to Scope Detailed in Warrant

Any investigating agents who are involved in executing the search warrant must adhere to the scope that’s detailed in the warrant. As mentioned previously, search warrants must be specific in the types of items that will be seized. If an investigating agent happens to seize an item that doesn’t fall under the scope of the warrant, the search warrant may not be valid.

Even if some of the items in the defendant’s business or home are evidence of unrelated crimes, these items cannot be seized. Let’s say that agents have obtained a warrant that allows them to search a person’s home. If the agents search the person’s car as well, it’s possible that anything found in the car would fall outside of the search warrant.

How the Exclusionary Rule Applies

The exclusionary rule is an important component of search warrants that could apply in your case. This rule was put into place to ensure that any evidence that was gathered in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights can’t be used to prove guilt once the case goes to trial.

Keep in mind that the exclusionary rule applies to search warrants as well. If the evidence gathered against you falls outside of the scope that the warrant had, the evidence could be excluded from the trial once a motion is filed. Before you go to court for a crime you were charged with, it’s essential that you know your rights.

If you have been charged for a crime of any severity and believe that the search warrant was unconstitutional, contact our criminal defense attorneys today to determine what your best legal options are.



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