The Constitution limits the ability of the police to conduct searches. In fact, unless officers have a warrant or probable cause, they cannot conduct a search. If the police conduct a search of your home, vehicle, or workplace, you’ll need to be advised by a Tampa criminal defense attorney.
In the State of Florida, when may the police obtain a search warrant? What does a search warrant allow? If you are placed under arrest because of evidence uncovered during a police search, what is your recourse?
If you continue reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn more about your legal rights in this state.
What Does a Search Warrant Allow?
A search warrant allows the police to search a specified location at a specified time for specific items. For example, if the police believe that you are selling drugs illegally from your home, they can ask a judge for a warrant to search the premises.
To acquire a search warrant, the police must explain to a judge why they have probable cause for a search. Search warrants cannot be based on rumors or hearsay, and precisely what is being sought must be spelled out clearly. A search warrant cannot be used for a “fishing expedition.”
Where May Searches be Conducted?
For instance, if the police are looking for a car that has been reported as stolen, a warrant may let them search someone’s garage – but not that person’s home, vehicle, or place of work.
If a property’s “curtilage” is specified by a search warrant, the curtilage may include the yard, driveway, garden, patio, pool area, tool sheds, or any part of the premises away from the primary structure. A vehicle on the premises is also considered a part of a property’s curtilage.
In most cases, the police have to show you the warrant before conducting a search in your home, workplace, vehicle, or other belongings such as your computer or phone. A warrant must specify exactly what the officers are searching for and where they can look for it.
What Must a Search Warrant Include?
In fact, a precise description of the items that the police intend to seize must be part of a search warrant. Additionally, the search warrant must include an assurance that the property’s owner or tenant will be given an inventory in writing of whatever items are seized by the police.
Unreasonable seizures of property are prohibited under the U.S. Constitution.
In the Tampa Bay area, should you have questions or concerns regarding a search warrant, or if you’re facing a criminal charge based on evidence discovered in a search by the police, arrange as quickly as possible to meet with a Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer.
How Will an Attorney Help You?
A good defense lawyer can review a search warrant to make sure it is in compliance with the legal requirements. Some search warrants are not.
In such cases, your lawyer can file a motion charging that the search warrant isn’t valid and that any evidence obtained with the warrant should be thrown out, or that any criminal charges against you based on evidence obtained with that warrant should be completely dismissed.
The way to handle a search warrant in Florida is to be completely honest and forthright. Contact a criminal defense attorney who will represent you and advocate for justice on your behalf.
In the State of Florida, anyone who attempts to resist or obstruct police officers who have a search warrant may be arrested and charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction may be penalized with up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
When May the Police Conduct a Warrantless Search?
Not every search by the police must be conducted with a search warrant. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a warrantless search may be conducted provided that it is “reasonable.” Unwarranted searches may be conducted for a variety of reasons.
These include searches conducted when a suspect is being arrested, searches conducted with a tenant’s or property owner’s consent, searches that occur under the “plain view” legal doctrine, and searches conducted in emergency situations.
If a tenant or a property owner agrees voluntarily to allow a police search, and if police officers look only for the items that person has agreed to, a court will probably rule that the search was conducted legally.
What if Evidence is Plainly Visible?
Police officers don’t need search warrants to seize incriminating evidence that’s in plain view, provided that an officer is legally in a spot where that evidence may be seen.
For instance, if you are pulled over by the police in traffic for a busted headlight, and if an officer sees drug paraphernalia in your vehicle, the paraphernalia can be seized, your vehicle may be searched, and you may be charged with a drug crime.
Police officers also don’t need a search warrant to conduct a search when a criminal suspect is being arrested. Officers may search a suspect who is being arrested and the area immediately under that suspect’s personal control (the suspect’s vehicle or residence, for example).
What Are Protective Sweeps?
Additionally, when police officers reasonably believe that a criminal suspect’s accomplice could be in hiding during or after that suspect’s arrest, the officers may conduct a “protective sweep” of the immediate area – under beds or inside closets, for example.
Protective sweeps may only be conducted for the safety of the police officers and not for the discovery or seizure of additional evidence.
Finally, police officers may conduct searches without warrants in emergency situations if the public’s safety is at risk or if key evidence in a criminal investigation might be lost or destroyed and there isn’t time to request a warrant.
What’s Important to Remember About Search Warrants?
The most important thing to remember about search warrants is that police officers must let you read and scrutinize a search warrant prior to or during a search, and the officers must also provide you with a list of any items they seize.
If your home, vehicle, or workplace is searched, with or without a warrant, or if you’re charged with a crime because of the evidence discovered in a police search, you’ll need sound advice and aggressive legal representation – right away – from a Tampa criminal defense attorney.