Search Warrants

Sacramento criminal defense attorneysSearch warrants, contrary to popular belief, do not give police officers carte blanche to search anything and everything you have touched. Our Sacramento criminal defense attorneys can help you fight against an overly broad warrant or an unlawful search and seizure.

Warrants are required to describe their intended targets and items with certain particularity and must make clear to the police officers exactly what items the police are allowed to search and seize. Your criminal defense attorney would do well to compare the items listed on the warrant as acceptable to seize with the supporting affidavit’s statements about those items, to see if the warrant identifies the items with reasonable specificity and justification.

If you are served with a warrant that inadequately describes the location to be served or objects seized, the police cannot correct for this with a detailed supporting affidavit or the police officer’s oral testimony that he knows what he is searching for. It must be specified in the warrant. However, if such a detailed affidavit is attached to and served along with the search warrant, that remedies the problem.

Special provisions apply if the police plan to seize certain books on the basis of what the ideas written in them are. This requires more specificity on the warrant to describe exactly what type of content the police are expecting to seize. This situation typically arises in obscenity cases or pornography cases. However, our Sacramento criminal defense attorneys might consider arguing that the same standard should apply to a search of your computer, because it is likely to contain a great deal of personal and private data, writings, photographs, etc. that are of no relevance to the police investigation.

The judge or magistrate who signs off on search warrants also signs a probable cause affidavit which is a separate document that is usually sealed, and not served to you with the warrant. If an indictment is later issued, the affidavit might be unsealed. The law concerning this document and the public’s right to see it is unclear: Some courts hold that there is a presumption in favor of unsealing established by the First and Fourth Amendments, and the burden is on the prosecution to demonstrate that there is a compelling need to keep it sealed. Other courts have held that defendants have no such right to access the affidavit before an indictment is filed.

If you have further questions about search warrants contact one of our Sacramento criminal defense attorneys, such as  Param Pabla, today to schedule an initial consultation.

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