According to the fourth amendment, there are specific criteria that a search warrant has to meet to be valid. The amendment states that a search warrant can only get issued if there is a probable cause supported by an affirmation or oath describing the particular place to be searched together with the items or persons that will get seized. Therefore the fourth amendment defends citizens from unreasonable seizures and searches.
The probable cause of the search warrant
Probable cause is a specific term, which means that officers have to have a reasonable cause for them to suspect that there exists enough evidence in a particular place that can prove the existence of a crime. After presenting the probable cause, the officers have to swear out the search warrant in the presence of a federal judge. The federal judge might then deny or agree to the search warrant. Filling a search warrant has to follow all the required procedures because a slight error during filling can later put the entire case at risk of invalidation. The following are the requirements of a probable cause;
- There should be probable cause that a crime has occurred.
- There should also be probable cause to insinuate that the said location contains or houses evidence of the crime.
- In instances involving digital evidence, the search warrant affidavit should explain the association of the crime and the evidence.
- The affidavit should also describe the association between the evidence and the alleged suspect.
A search warrant granted without probable cause can be questioned during a court hearing and can invalidate the case.
Indication of search areas
A search warrant also indicates the exact areas that the federal officers are authorized to search and examine. Therefore, a search warrant might apply to a single house or office, even if the individual under scrutiny owns other offices and rental property. Federal officers are not allowed to deviate from the search areas indicated in the warrant and may risk invalidation of the entire case if they do so. Various state laws define what property is eligible to search. For example, the Texas Codes of Criminal Procedure indicates that only the following are eligible for a search;
- Illegally acquired property. That is property acquired through illegal means such as fraud or theft.
- Property specifically made, adapted, or designed for committing an offense and any property containing instruments or tools used in perpetrating criminal activity.
- Contraband property/ illegal property like illegal drugs
- Illegal weapons or any prohibited gambling equipment.
- Property containing obscene materials. These materials include any child pornography or any other material considered obscene.
- Any property that harbors evidence about a particular crime.
Items to be confiscated
Search warrants also have to indicate what items and documents to seize as evidence in the case. Therefore, Federal officers should not confiscate items like computers or fiscal records if the search warrant’s written terms do not permit them to do so. Due to this reason, evidence obtained through the seizure of items not indicated in the search warrant can not hold up during a court hearing. The judge trying the case will suppress any evidence obtained through such means because it violates the search warrant’s terms.
It is a requirement that officers serve the alleged suspect a copy of the search warrant or post it at a prominent place before proceeding with the search. However, in instances of a sneak peek warrant, officers are under no obligation to either post or serve the alleged suspect with a copy of the search warrant.
Officers are also not obligated to either identify themselves or announce their presence before serving a warrant or conducting the search. The reason for this is that suspects can quickly and easily destroy digital evidence and that announcing their presence might put their lives in danger.
The main aim of a search warrant is usually to catch the alleged suspect by surprise. Agents executing the search warrant hope that they can find the suspects in the middle of criminal activity and, therefore, make it difficult for them to build a defense against any criminal charges. Therefore, one should hire a good lawyer to guide and give legal advice on how to handle the situation. That is why we at Spodek law group offer you the best legal representation.