When the police come to your door claiming they have permission to search your home or belongings, you have the right to examine the warrant. Most people never even look at the document. Instead, they assume that police officers have permission to search everywhere.
Always study the warrant because it contains details about the powers granted to police officers. If they violate the terms of the document, you may be able to have illegally obtained evidence suppressed.
What can the police do with a warrant?
California search warrants do not generally give peace officers broad searching powers. In most situations, the document describes where officers are allowed to look when searching for evidence of criminal activity. It also describes specific items that the police are seeking to find.
For example, if suspected of stealing a jewelry collection from your neighbor, that is what the officers should be trying to find. The warrant should specify the area in which they should look. Perhaps in your closet or under your bed, for instance.
When can the police search elsewhere?
In limited circumstances, law enforcement may legally expand their search. Examples include:
- To ensure the safety of others and themselves
- The initial search suggests additional evidence may be present
- To stop you or someone else from destroying evidence
- The officers see criminal evidence in plain view
A search warrant makes for a pretty dry read, but it is essential to study the document, especially if the search leads to an arrest. The unlawful execution of a search warrant is one of the strongest defenses you can create following an arrest for criminal acts like robbery, theft, assault and even murder.