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Search Warrant Validity and Exceptions to the Rule

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Gavel And Handcuffs On Law Book
The police don't have the authority to search your property anytime they feel like. Under normal circumstances, a judge has to sign a valid search warrant to authorize the police to search your property. If the police searched your property, learn more about search warrants.
Warrants to Search
Below are some of the factors that make a search warrant legally valid.
Good Faith Filing
A warrant is only valid if the law officer that filed it had good reason to and believed the information on which they based the warrant. A warrant is invalid if you can prove that the law officer who issued it had an ulterior motive for the warrant. For example, a warrant is invalid if an officer uses their personal differences with you to file a warrant to search your house.
Reliability of Information
A valid warrant must also be based on reliable information. In most criminal cases, police officers file for warrants after they receive information from their investigations or informants. Reliable information must be believable enough to trigger probable cause for the search.
For example, an informant without any connection to an alleged crime may not be a reliable source of information for the crime. If a judge issued a warrant based on such unreliable information, then the warrant might not stand up in court if you challenge it.
Judge Neutrality
The judge that issues a warrant must be an impartial and neutral party as far as the criminal case at hand is concerned. This neutrality ensures that the judge is not swayed by personal circumstances as they make their decision. For example, a warrant may not be valid if the defendant upon whose words the warrant rests is related to the judge.
Specificity
Lastly, a good search warrant should be as specific as possible. A valid warrant should specify the items the police should search for and the properties the police should search. A vague warrant, which police officers can interpret any way they like, is not valid. If the warrant authorizes the police to search your vacation rental home, then it should say so.
Exceptions to the Rule
In many criminal cases, you may challenge prosecution evidence that the police obtained without a valid search warrant. You just have to prove to the court that the police acted without a search warrant or that they used an invalid search warrant. However, some exceptions to the rule allow the police to search your property without a valid search warrant. Here are a few examples of these exceptions.
Exigent Circumstances
The police don't need a search warrant to search your property if the situation at hand is so complicated that even a slight delay would trigger a greater evil. For example, the police don't need a search warrant to enter a house where they believe someone is about to kill another person.
Hot Pursuit
The police also don't need a search warrant if they are in pursuit of a suspect, and the suspect enters a home. For example, the police don't need a warrant to enter your house if they were chasing a homicide suspect and the suspect jumps into your house.
Plain View
Lastly, the police also don't need a search warrant to search a property if they can see an illegal item or evidence in plain view. For example, if the police were looking for a suspect with a Berretta pistol, the police don't need a search warrant to take your Berretta pistol if they stop you and the pistol is next to you in plain view.
At Armstrong Betker and Schaeffer, PLC, we do everything possible to defend our clients. We can even petition the court to throw out prosecution evidence that the police obtained illegally. If you have a criminal case, consult us as soon as possible so that we can begin working on your defense.