You have rights that are there to prevent anyone from taking advantage of you or using the law to their own malicious means. Although sometimes it may seem otherwise, law enforcement must abide by your rights, even during an arrest, to ensure that the entire process remains legal. If police do not uphold your rights, evidence and charges against you may be reduced or dismissed. In this blog, Attorney Chris Samuelson of The Samuelson Law Firm in Colorado Springs explains
search warrants, what they are, and when police must use them when investigating a supposed crime.
What Are Search Warrants?
Broadly, a search warrant is permission from a judge that allows police to look for a specific object at a certain location. Police can obtain a search warrant by appealing to a judge and providing evidence that some illegal activity or evidence of illegal activity can be found at the specific location outlined in the search warrant. Evidence can include personal observations or suggestions provided by others that indicate criminal activity. If the evidence is compelling, the judge can issue a search warrant.
Evidence can be established through:
- Confidential police informant
- Police officers
- Witness to the alleged crime
- Victim of the alleged crime
Where Can Police Search With a Warrant?
If, for example, the search warrant states that illegal marijuana plants are to be found in the backyard of 10 Main Street, police can only search the background of 10 Main Street for marijuana plants. Police are not able to enter the home and search for illegal weapons. However, should police encounter weapons while searching the backyard for marijuana plants, these can be seized as evidence. Search warrants can also apply to individuals, but only the person listed on the warrant.
However, there are instances when law enforcement does not need a warrant to conduct a search:
- Consent Was Given: The individual or person in control of the premises gave permission for law enforcement to search the area. Law enforcement does not have to inform people of their right to refuse a search.
- Plain View Doctrine: When evidence or potential contraband is in plain view and an officer can simply see the evidence, it can be seized without a warrant.
- Stop and Frisk: If someone can reasonably be suspected of criminal activity, police can frisk the suspect for weapons.
- Connection with Arrest: If an officer is making an arrest, the person being arrested and the area in their immediate control may be searched by law enforcement.
- Emergencies: If public safety or loss of evidence would result from visiting a judge to obtain a warrant, police may be able to search and seize evidence without a warrant since the need to protect the public outweighs the need for a warrant.
Were you arrested in connection with evidence seized by law enforcement and wondering if your arrest was legal? Understanding search and seizure laws can be complicated, and there are so many nuances to wade through. Let an experienced criminal defense lawyer help you.
Attorney Samuelson offers free consultations for those in need of legal assistance!
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