Before they can search your home, office, vehicle or other private property for evidence of a crime, local police and federal agents generally (with certain exceptions) must get a search warrant first. Otherwise, the search could violate your Constitutional right against illegal searches and seizures and cause the judge to throw out any resulting evidence that the prosecutor tries to present in court.
Keep in mind that just because officers present you with a search warrant, it does not automatically mean the warrant is valid and legally enforceable. For the warrant to be legitimate, the following must be true:
- It must be based on probable cause, meaning that evidence indicates that a search of the premises will likely uncover evidence of a crime.
- It must be issued by a judge or magistrate who is “neutral and detached” from the investigation against you.
- It must “particularly describe the things to be seized” and accurately describe the premises to be searched. A search warrant that lacks specificity is arguably too broad and unconstitutional.
If the police arrive to search your property, they should present you with a copy of the warrant. To avoid the danger of physical harm or additional criminal charges, you should comply with their orders. You should also contact your defense attorney as soon as possible. They can review the warrant for possible errors.
‘Fruit of the poisonous tree’
An invalid warrant could mean that the police search was illegal. In a criminal trial, the judge might consider anything the officers seized as evidence to be “fruit of the poisonous tree,” or the result of illegal activity that the court cannot condone. Such a decision can significantly improve your chances of a dismissal or acquittal.