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Understanding Search Warrants


A law commissioned by the U.S. Constitution, the Fourth Amendment is a decree that protects civilians from government invasions like search and seizure of homes, properties, and even people themselves. It is a long-standing law that balances justification in society and keeps people feel secured.

However, this law can be countered by a search warrant, through which the government, specifically the police force, is given the green light to search and seize as long as it is in the grounds of a probable cause.

With the number of crimes in Las Vegas, a search warrant is often issued. Furthermore, criminal attorneys are working hard to aid the accused. Although it is a very prominent process, a search warrant may vary per jurisdiction; however, it is vastly undermined and misunderstood by the law enforcement and civilians – leading to many complications during court process.

To get a clear perspective, here are some facts about search warrants:

What is a search warrant?

A search warrant is an order signed by a judge or a magistrate that permits police officers to carry out a “search and seizure” procedure on a person, an area, or a property for chances of finding evidence or catching something in the act that will lead to incrimination. The judge who will issue the search warrant should be neutral. It means that he or she should not be related to the law enforcement in any way.

Included in a search warrant is the location where the search is going to occur, the reasonable time and schedule, including details of the entity that will be searched and its legal purpose.

How do police officers get search warrants?

Before a police officer applies for a search warrant on a judicial court, he or she should take great lengths to prove that the entity to be searched or seized has a probable cause. A judge needs an affidavit containing all the observations of the officer himself or other witnesses before issuing a search warrant.

The affidavit includes:

  • Information on the premises that will be searched
  • Offense that will be charged once the entity is found
  • Reasons why the police think the entity is in the area

The police officer should also prove himself or herself worthy of requesting for a search warrant through providing documents that describe their position and authority, the legislation they are applying under, and the force and resources needed to accomplish the procedure. These must all be accompanied by evidence that will further strengthen the application.

Scope, limitations, and regulations

When a search warrant is approved and released, the police force then takes it for execution. However, they cannot just barge in the door whenever they want. There are rules and limitations they need to follow.

First, search warrants should be made in a timely manner. Once a search warrant is issued, the law enforcement has 14 days to perform it from a 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. time frame only.

Once in the vicinity, the law enforcement should employ the “knock notice” or the announcement of their presence to the inhabitants of the area. If denied of an entrance, the police could take measures such as breaking or restraining people if needed.

During the search, the police officers can only look in specific areas included in the warrant and where the entity should reasonably be. However, because of the plain view doctrine, officers could pick the entity if in plain sight regardless of the location.

They can also do a search warrant even without an official form but only during emergency situations where lives are at stake.

The aftermath

When the search warrant is successfully performed, police officers go back to court to submit a search warrant return document. It includes the process of the search and the items obtained are reported.

This is also the time when the accused can challenge the completed search. Some factors the accused can bring up are:

  • Exceeding the scope of the search or searching on people and places not covered by the warrant
  • Mistreatment by police officers
  • Fabricated probable cause

Gear yourself with all the information about search warrants in case you encounter it in the future! For further assistance, contact a reliable criminal attorney in Las Vegas soon!

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