Search Warrants Must Meet Certain Requirements
Citizens are protected from unlawful search of their homes, person, vehicles and other property unless a law enforcement officer has obtained a valid search warrant and has probable cause to conduct a search. This protection is provided under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. If any evidence of a crime is discovered or collected during an illegal search, it will not be admissible in court proceedings against you. Attacking search warrants can result in having your case dismissed and we have won serious drug cases and gun cases this way. This post takes a look at Massachusetts search warrants.
In order for a search warrant to be considered valid, it must specifically identify the premise that is to be searched. For instance a search warrant must identify the vehicle to be searched, residence and physical address of the premise to be searched as well as a description of the premise, or specific person to be searched. The physical address must be precise and correct, meaning a search of a specific apartment number cannot be conducted without violating the inhabitant’s rights if the search warrant only identifies the street address of the apartment building, but not the specific apartment. The search warrant must be based on probable cause, which must be articulated with facts. And finally, a search warrant is only considered to be valid if it is signed and issued by a judge.
Rules for Executing a Search Warrant
As a general rule in Massachusetts, law enforcement officials are required to knock at the door of a private dwelling, identify themselves, and announce their purpose when executing a search warrant. If there is no answer or the inhabitants are uncooperative, circumstances may permit the officers to use force to gain entry to the premises. Yet, there may be certain exceptions to the general “knock-and-announce” rule that may permit officers to enter without knocking. This is called executing a no-knock search warrant.
No-Knock Search Warrants
Certain exigent circumstances may permit officers to enter a premises without first knocking and announcing their presence. For example, if the officers or some other individual would be put into danger if a knock-and-announce warrant were executed, such circumstances usually would qualify under the no-knock exception. Similarly, if there is a likelihood that knocking would alert a suspect to an imminent search of the premises such that the suspect may attempt to destroy evidence, a no-knock search warrant execution would be justified.
Warrants must be supported by an affidavit prepared by the law enforcement officers, which indicates the probable cause for the search and all of the other information discussed above. The affidavit must also state whether the officer believes that a no-knock warrant is necessary. However, if an officer arrives at a search site with the intention of executing a knock-and-announce search warrant, but observes circumstances which would fall within one of the exceptions to the knock-and-announce rule, he or she may conduct a knockless entry of the premises, and such entry will likely be deemed to have been reasonable in light of the situation.
When a Search Warrant Turns Up Evidence of a Crime, Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Many criminal cases are based on evidence that was obtained during a search and seizure. If that search was conducted by law enforcement illegally, the evidence obtained from that search is inadmissible in court.