What are Search Warrants


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The term search warrant is used a lot in general conversation; but what exactly does the term search warrant mean? Usually the term "warrant" refers to the paper that allows a law enforcement person to arrest or detain a person because he or she has committed a crime. However, it is hard to reconcile this definition of warrant withthe term "search". Most people may think that a search warrant refers to searching for a person that has committed a crime but this is not the case.

A search warrant allows the police to searcha person's house, business or any otherspecified place for evidence. The police do not need to prove that a person has committed a crime; they just need to have that the evidence they are seeking probably will be located within or in the vicinity of the area in which they are searching. If the police can demonstrate to the judge that they have probable cause to believe that there is evidence in the house, business, car etc then the search warrant will more than likely be granted.Unless there is an imminent danger to human life, a person's , home, business or bodycannot be searched without a warrant.

Search warrants are explained by the fourth Amendment of theUnited States Constitution which states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, house, papers, and effects, againstunreasonable searches, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Now this explanation that states that the place to be searched must be described can be a bit tricky. For example if the police have probable cause tobelieve that a person may have stolen a car, then the obvious and logical places to search would be the driveway, carport, garages, barns or large tool sheds. A lot of peoplehave mistakenly concluded that if the police are looking for a stolen car then they cannot look in cupboards, drawers or desks but this not correct.

The search warrant however, would include the entire house because even though a car cannot be concealed ina dresser drawer or deskthe keysto the stolen car can be hid there. Those keys would be evidence that the car was stolen and therefore the police would have the right to search for any evidence in the house that would provide evidence of the car theft.

Also it is important that it is made clear thata judge will grant a search warrant only if they receive sworn statements from the police describing the place to be searched and the type of items for which the police will search. In other words, search warrants are not automatic or pro forma, a search warrant requiredspecificity as to the place being searched and a good faith affidavit as to the reason for the search.

Some search warrants can only be executed after 6 am and before 9 or 10 pm; other can be executed at night or at any time.Although the search warrant may only list certain named persons, the police can detain any other person who is in the house at the time of the search. Another important concept to remember is that if evidencethatjustifies an arrest is found, the police can search and arrest a person who is presenteven if the person was not originally listed on the search warrant.

Finally, if the police find items that meet the evidence requirements, they can seize the property but they must give the owners a receipt for the property that they (the police) have seized.