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Was that search warrant lawfully served on you?

Regardless of what type of crime law enforcement officials accuse you of, they must follow certain procedures and protocols in order to protect your rights under the U.S. Constitution. For this reason, and more, officers secure search warrants before attempting to collect any evidence.

If able to obtain a search warrant, many officers will believe that their obligation to protect your rights is over. However, that probably isn't true. The law requires officers to serve search warrants and conduct searches in a certain manner in order to remain valid and to avoid violating your rights.

Protocols at the door

A search warrant is not necessarily a license to simply knock down your door and make entry. Those types of warrants, called "no-knock" warrants, are for when compelling evidence exists that you supposedly know about the warrant and one of the following circumstances exists:

  • Knocking would permit you to escape
  • Knocking would endanger officers
  • Knocking would result in the destruction of evidence

Most warrants require officers to knock on the door, announce themselves and provide a copy of the warrant to the party opening the door. You should know that the Constitution does not mandate providing you a copy of the warrant at this time. However, that should not stop you from asking for a copy before opening your door.

If you are not home when police arrive, and they are waiting for a search warrant, they may reasonably keep you outside until the warrant arrives if someone is in the process of obtaining it. Once inside, police may not allow third parties who are not aiding in the execution of the warrant to be present.

What happens to you during the search?

Officers may detain you during a valid search of the premises. However, they may not hunt you down off the premises and take you into custody if you were not home at the time. If you are at the scene and police believe that you pose a danger to them, they may handcuff you during the search. Even in those circumstances, officers may not search you unless the search warrant specifically names you as someone to search.

If the warrant is a limited one to only the premises, officers cannot search you unless they develop probable cause to do so. Do not give them any reason to do so. During the search, officers may seize any items that an officer finds "in plain view" as well, even if the warrant does not list them. You may also require a list of any items seized during the search.

Moreover, officers must handle anything seized in a particular manner in order for it to remain valid evidence. As you can see, numerous ways to lawfully serve a search warrant exist. It may be in your best interest to contact a Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as you are aware that police intend to serve and execute a search warrant to make sure that everything is done in accordance with the law and that your constitutional rights are protected.

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