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The Search Warrant Issue and Limitations

The Search Warrant Issue and Limitations

A search warrant is a court order – issued by a judge – which gives members of law enforcement permission to search the area covered by the warrant. Search warrants cannot be issued without probable cause, although, in some instances, law enforcement does not need a warrant for a search or an arrest that may follow the search.

Search Warrant Issue
Law enforcement officials usually begin the process for a search warrant using evidence they have collected; officials will sign a sworn statement or affidavit that outlines their evidence and probable cause for the warrant. If a judge feels the affidavit provides probable cause, a warrant for the search is issued.

Search warrants are always issued in private, and any suspects involved with the warrant cannot contest the warrant until a search – and possible arrest – has already taken place.

Search Warrant Limitations
A search warrant must define the exact areas to be searched and items the police are looking for. For example, if a warrant has been issued that provides police with permission to search a home office, they may not be able to search the rest of the home – and if a warrant has been issued so police can search for a weapon, they cannot use the warrant to search for drugs.

If the parameters of the warrant are breached any items seized during the search may be inadmissible in a court trial. If an arrest took place because of items seized during a breached warrant, the defendant can press a wrongful arrest suit against law enforcement.

Instances when a Search Warrant is Not Needed
In many cases, law enforcement does not legally require a warrant and may search a person or property without a warrant in the following instances:

If police see illegal items in plain view – such as drug paraphernalia on a car seat – they can search the rest of the car and arrest the driver. When police make an arrest, they have the right to search the person for weapons or evidence a suspect may be carrying. If police arrest an individual in a home, and suspect that an accomplice is in the home as well, the police may search the home; if any illegal materials are found during this search, police may legally seize the materials and present them at a court trial.

In an emergency situation, police may search and seize without a search warrant – for example, if the public or suspect is in danger.

*The information in this article does not constitute legal advice. Please contact a legal professional in your local area for the best up-to-date and accurate legal advice.

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