Police officers, by law, are not permitted to enter your household without consent unless they have a court issued search warrant. Because the 4th amendment shields you from unnecessary and unreasonable seizures and searches, a search warrant gives police officers the legal right to gather evidence after entering your home that may be incriminating and used against you.
What are Search Warrants?
Courts issue search warrants to officers so that they can have the jurisdiction to search specific locations like households and businesses. This is so that they can look for certain incriminating evidence against a party. Police officers are only given search warrants after they present probable cause. Probable cause proves that a crime took place in a certain area and that items associated with it may be found in said location. In order for a warrant to be validated, it must be endorsed by a neutral judge, it must name the location that will be searched and the items that can and will be seized if found, it has to state probable cause, and it must be filed by a police officer. Police are only allowed to search past the limits of the search warrant if they believe they are saving innocent individuals or themselves, or are protecting the destruction of evidence. A criminal attorney Fairfax VA residents frequently turn to can help explain in further detail.
What to Do When Served
Before allowing a police officer to enter your household, you should confirm the date, address, and signature on the search warrant. It may be intimidating to do so with a law enforcement officer standing in front of you, but it is your legal right to protect yourself by doing so. Often times police officers conduct a search of the wrong building, so checking the address is crucial. Also, if a search warrant is older than two weeks, you may want to ask reasoning. Many law enforcement departments require that their officers use their search warrant within 14 days. If a judge has not signed the warrant, you should not allow the officer into your home. A signature from a judge proves that consent was made for the search and is what makes a search warrant legally binding.
If you find an error within a search warrant, you must immediately inform the police officers present. State that you will not grant entry because certain information is incorrect or flawed. If a police officer ignores your requests and proceeds to search your house regardless of your argument, you will need to contact a criminal defense attorney who can argue that any evidence found during the search should be inadmissible in court.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from the Virginia Crime & Traffic Law Firm for their insight into criminal defense.