Police Used an Arrest Warrant to then Conduct a Search of My Home - Is That Legal?


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In some cases, police may procure an arrest warrant before arresting a person. The warrant gives them the authority to go to where the suspect is and take him or her into custody. However, the ability to search his or her property is limited based on the circumstances surrounding the arrest.

Caselaw Guidance

Various cases that have went before the United States Supreme Court have provided guidance on police conduct related to arrests, seizures, searches and third-party rights. In Payton v. New York, the Supreme Court held unconstitutional a law in New York that allowed law enforcement to enter a residence without a warrant in order to arrest a suspect for a felony. Supreme Court guidance demonstrates the importance of a personís privacy expectations in his or her own home. Without exigent circumstances, a personís threshold cannot be crossed without law enforcement having a valid warrant. When a law enforcement officer does have an arrest warrant, they can usually enter the suspectís residence to arrest a suspect.

Arrest Warrants

A magistrate issues an arrest warrant after law enforcement provides probable cause to show that the subject of the warrant has committed a crime and should be arrested for it. Its primary function is to protect a person from being unreasonably seized. Its function is limited in nature for this very narrow purpose.

Arrest warrants provide the government with the right to arrest a suspect where he or she may be found. This often includes a residence where an officer has a reason to believe the suspect lives even when this is not the address of the individualís residence. This usually requires law enforcement to conduct an investigation to find evidence that a person resides at a particular location so that an arrest warrant of this nature is valid.


Warrantless Searches

The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from an unreasonable search or seizure. The Supreme Court has held that entry into a home to arrest a suspect or conduct a search is per se unreasonable unless law enforcement has a valid warrant. The requirement to have a warrant holds law enforcement to a higher standard so that they do not have unbridled authority. A search warrant requires a law enforcement officer to sign an affidavit that establishes probable cause and proves that what law enforcement officer is looking for is where he or she says it is. The warrant may also give law enforcement the right to search for someone in the location named in the warrant.

The purpose of a search warrant is to protect an individualís privacy interests in his or her home so that law enforcement cannot come and enter the property.

When an Arrest Warrant and Search Warrant Is Necessary

Sometimes law enforcement is required to obtain an arrest warrant and a search warrant for to conduct a valid search. For example, if a suspect is at another location other than his or her own residence, law enforcement may be required to procure an arrest warrant for the actual arrest as well as a search warrant to search for the individual in the residence.

If there is not any evidence that a person lives in the location, the police must usually have both types of warrants. The arrest warrant does not protect a third partyís interests, so this is why a separate search warrant is often necessary.

Exigent Circumstances

In some cases, law enforcement is permitted to enter a residence without a valid warrant. However, these situations are usually reserved for exigent or emergency circumstances. These circumstances may include that the suspect may escape, may harm himself or others or may destroy evidence. Also, law enforcement may be able to enter a residence if they are in hot pursuit of the suspect.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer for Assistance

If you believe that law enforcement violated your civil rights by using an arrest warrant to complete an invalid search, it is important that you contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately. He or she may need to take immediate action to protect your legal rights and to take action on your behalf to prevent law enforcement from using any evidence that they obtained from an arrest warrant to go beyond the scope of the warrant to conduct an illegal search. He or she may be able to have certain evidence found inadmissible so that you can avoid a conviction against a defendant.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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