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If you base your legal knowledge on television shows, it would seem that police officers can enter property and arrest people at will. However, that is not the case. In many cases, police must obtain a search warrant to enter and search your private property. These search warrants are governed by Florida Statutes Chapter 933, and are a separate part of the law from arrest warrants.
In this brief article, a criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg with our team at Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan has compiled some information to help you understand search warrants and what your rights are if a search warrant is being issued for your property.
What is a Search Warrant?
Citizens are protected from unlawful search and seizure. In order to make the search lawful, officers must obtain a search warrant. The search warrant is a document which authorizes law enforcement officers to conduct a search in a specific location to locate specific items. In other words, a search warrant allows the police to have access to your home, car, business, or other property to look for and seize evidence of criminal activity.
Who Issues a Search Warrant?
A judge is the only person who can issue a search warrant. In order to obtain the search warrant, law enforcement officers must draft and submit a signed affidavit outlining the reason that they need the warrant. They must have probable cause to believe that there is criminal activity, a person in hiding, or information related to a crime in the location. The judge won’t sign the warrant if there is no probable cause.
What Are Your Rights in a Search Warrant Scenario?
If someone arrives at your property, you have the right to read the search warrant before allowing the officers to enter your property.
A warrant to search your property is not usually a blanket document to allow officers to search your entire property, and they certainly should not destroy your property in the process of the search. The search warrant will contain very specific information regarding where the officers can and cannot search, and officers cannot search anywhere not specified in the document. For example, if the search warrant is for your business but only specifies your specific office or desk, officers cannot raid your assistant’s desk or any vehicles on the property.
It’s important to note that while the warrant will share specific information about what the officers are looking for, that doesn’t mean they are limited to only seizing the items listed. For example, if they are in the home to search for evidence of drug trafficking but also find evidence of human trafficking, they are allowed to seize that evidence as well — even though it is not related to the case they are currently investigating.
If police have arrived at your home with a search warrant, or if you know that police are in the process of obtaining a warrant, you will need a St. Petersburg defense lawyer with Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan. Your attorney will help you understand your rights if a search or arrest warrant has been issued.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.