Have You Been Served a Search Warrant in Denton County? Call Our Office For Immediate Assistance.
Most people are familiar with the popular, crime-drama scenario: a law enforcement agent knocks at the door and presents a search warrant, enters the home, and begins searching the occupant’s home and belongings. The search soon results in recovery of illegal drugs and paraphernalia. The occupant is then charged with crimes such as intent to distribute the drugs.
It may seem that because police acted under the authority of a search warrant, no defenses are available to the occupant. This is incorrect. If you or your belongings were searched pursuant to a search warrant, you may have defenses available to you and the Peugh Law Firm can help.
The right to be free from unlawful search and seizures is one of the highest regarded rights derived from the United States Constitution and is the subject of voluminous writings in American jurisprudence. Put simply, the Fourth Amendment allows people to feel secure in their home, belongings, and personal effects. Searches of these types of property are only acceptable under certain circumstances. Search warrants can be challenged on a variety of grounds and if a challenge is deemed applicable by a judge, the search will be deemed unreasonable, which could result in the exclusion of any evidence recovered during the unreasonable search.
Lack of Probable Cause:
A defense lawyer will first ask if there was sufficient probable cause to allow for the search. Probable cause is based on the “totality of the circumstances,” not one or two sentences within the probable cause affidavit. Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, (1983); Hennessy v. State, 660 S.W.2d 87, 90 (Tex. Crim. App. 1983). A reviewing judge could determine that the contents of the affidavit were “mere conclusory statement[s] that gives the magistrate virtually no basis at all for making a judgment regarding probable cause.” Gates, 462 U.S. at 238–239. Stated differently, a defense lawyer may be able to establish to a judge that the probable cause finding was insufficient.
Errors in Time or Place:
It may be possible for the defense to argue that the search warrant was “stale” by the time it was presented to the magistrate judge, or that the search warrant failed to properly identify the place to be searched. A defense attorney must ask the following questions regarding the search warrant: (1) was the search warrant timely; and (2) was the place to be searched identified with particularity?
Time is extremely important when considering the validity of a search warrant. Law enforcement must show that the object of the search warrant (the place or person to be searched) is likely to be on the premises or property at the moment that the search warrant is requested.
Regarding place errors, the very language of the Fourth Amendment demands that the search warrant be specific as to the place being searched:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, 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.”
A defense attorney will most often be successful in proving this defense by demonstrating that there are errors present in how the premises or property to be search is described in the search warrant affidavit.
The Four Corners Rule:
When challenging the validity of a search warrant, it is important to consider whether or not there was a violation to the “Four Corners Rule.”
The judge must confine his or her determination regarding probable cause to the affidavit itself, looking only to its “four corners,” and not to any extraneous evidence. The reviewing judge can make reasonable inferences from the stated facts within the affidavit, but cannot consider anything outside of the affidavit itself.
It is important they you have quality legal representation if you believe that you were subjected to an illegal search. Call the Peugh Law Firm today so that we can determine if any of these defenses are applicable to your case.