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A Denver Colorado Criminal Lawyer On: What You Should If The Police Are At Your Door With A Search Warrant – One of the most frightening and intimidating experience is suffering through the execution of a search of your person, your home, or your car.
This article targets understanding your rights and some practical advice on what you should do during the execution of a search warrant.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution restricts government searches and seizures.
The Fourth Amendment reads:
“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”
If the police have a search warrant and they intend to search your home – the warrant may permit them to search specific, named people found at the targeted location. In addition – they have the authority to pat down – and “detain” – while executing the search warrant – anyone present during the search.
If the police find evidence of a crime that is considered sufficient to arrest a person present, they may arrest and search that person, even if the person was not listed on the warrant.
If the police do NOT have a warrant – they can still search your home – at least the common areas – if your roommate, or a guest of the home, authorizes and consents to the search. If the police “reasonably believe” the person located at the home has the authority to consent – they can rely on that “apparent authority” of that person. Any challenges to the legitimacy of that consent will later be tested by the courts later in time.
As for your place of work – law enforcement can search your workspace if they have a warrant OR if they have the consent of your employer. Your employer has the right to allow the police to search your workspace with – or without – your personal consent or not.
Here is the practical advice part. Even if the police exceed their authority during the execution of a search or arrest warrant – do NOT interfere and do NOT resist. A search warrant permits the police the right to enter the place to be searched that is detailed and described in the warrant. They can enter for the sole purpose of searching for, seizing, and inventorying the items identified in the warrant.
If the police have only an arrest warrant – they are permitted to enter your home and arrest you but the arrest warrant does not give them the authority to search your home unless you are hiding. Also – if the police see evidence or contraband, such as illegal controlled substances – in PLAIN VIEW – they can also seize that evidence and use it against you.
The execution of a search warrant provides for a complex and possibly volatile and dangerous task. Many rules of law apply in this environment. If handled improperly – your criminal defense lawyer will have grounds to suppress some if not all of the incriminating evidence discovered on the premises.
There is no question that the execution of a search warrant at your home a frightening and terrible experience for any citizen. A search of your home is really a governmental invasion into the privacy and sanctity of the place where you have the most fundamental of all of our constitutionally protected rights.
The police are at your door with a search warrant. The knock or ring the bell. You go to the door and ask them if they have a search or arrest warrant. If the answer is they do not have a warrant – do not open the door and let them into your home. Do not answer any questions. Exercise your right to remain silent.
If the police tell you they have a warrant – ask them to slip it under the door (or to show it to you through a peephole, a window in or near your door, or open the door enough to see the warrant.
At the point that you see something that looks like a warrant. Open the door, step outside, close the door behind you, and then read the warrant. This is NOT the time to challenge the warrant or the right of the police to execute the warrant. Do NOT interfere with the search – call your lawyer as soon as possible.
Watch the search as much possible. Video tape the search if possible, and if you cannot – take notes and ask anyone present to watch the search with you.
It’s simple – do not let the police into your home if they do not have a warrant. I repeat – do not let the police into your home if they do not have a warrant. Do NOT fall for the threat that they will leave and get a warrant. If that is the case – let them try. NEVER consent to a search of your home without a warrant… period.
Exception – if the police are investigating a crime and they believe they have an emergency basis to enter – do NOT interfere. But in either case do NOT answer their questions and ask for a lawyer.
Your refusal to permit them to search is NOT a ground a judge will later use to authorize the issuance of a warrant.
You can NOT be punished if your refuse to consent to a search of your home in the absence of a warrant.
If you do interfere with the search – illegal or not – you can be arrested.
The well known standard set by the United States Supreme Court in Michigan v. Summers – provides that the police can “temporarily detain the occupants of the premises” while a search is being conducted.
Known as the “Summers Rule,” the police do not need the usual “reasonable suspicion” before they make the decision to detain the occupant or occupants. Occupants do not need to be inside the house at the time of the search warrant execution – they can be standing any where on the property at the time the police arrive.
The reasoning used by the courts in permitting this kind of detention is essentially about officer safety.
Detaining occupants prevents the persons from the scene the opportunity from leaving and then returning to possibly harm the police. On the other hand if the occupant has left BEFORE the execution of the warrant – the police are no longer in danger and the police cannot detain that person when they return later unless there exists “reasonable suspicion” that the occupant “has committed or is committing a criminal act.”
When the police make entry, they will immediately take control of the premises with the intention to prevent the destruction of evidence. They quickly spread throughout the home to identify everyone there and look for any weapons or contraband present at the search site.
Weapons discovered may be temporarily seized for officer safety even if they are not technically contraband or a target of the warrant.
The will also “pat down” the occupants present.
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Never stop fighting – never stop believing in yourself and your right to due process of law.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: H. Michael Steinberg – Email The Author at email@example.com – A Denver Colorado Drug Crimes Criminal Defense Lawyer – or call his office at 303-627-7777 during business hours – or call his cell if you cannot wait and need his immediate assistance – 720-220-2277. Attorney H. Michael Steinberg is passionate about criminal defense. His extensive knowledge and experience of Colorado Criminal Law gives him the edge you need to properly handle your case.
A 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. If you are seeking counsel there maybe other more specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics. For that, please contact the author.
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