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What people need to know about the scope of search warrants

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable property searches and seizures. Illinois police officers need a legal justification to go through someone’s home or vehicle. Sometimes, officers have probable cause to suspect a crime based on certain circumstances, such as an odor coming from an apartment.

Other times, statements from witnesses or an ongoing investigation lead to strong suspicions of criminal activity. Police officers can go to court and ask a judge to grant them a search warrant. When officers arrive at someone’s home and present a search warrant, the average person may not know what to do. Reviewing the search warrant for mistakes and to understand the scope of the warrant is crucial for an individual’s protection.

What is the scope of a search warrant?

Judges do not grant police officers the right to go through any and every piece of personal property on a fishing expedition for potential evidence. Officers must ask for permission to search specific areas for certain types of evidence. Judges grant them the right to search within the scope of the warrant. For example, police officers could arrive with a warrant to search someone’s home for evidence of drug trafficking. That warrant does not necessarily give them the authority to go through someone’s personal electronic devices or their vehicle.

Issues with the warrant can sometimes raise questions about the legality of a search. Those facing a search often check for a judge’s signature and to ensure that other details, like the address, are correct on a search warrant. They can also push back against inappropriate conduct if they know the scope of the warrant. When they spot officers exceeding what the warrant allows, they could question those behaviors.

Those subject to a search warrant may need help

It can be very difficult for someone to remain calm in a scenario in which they face a major breach of their privacy. People become emotional when police officers arrive with search warrants and may either be unnecessarily reactive or overly passive during the search process.

People can often ask to wait until their lawyer is present to execute the search warrant. An attorney can review the warrant and may more readily recognize when police officers may overstep their authority. Understanding search warrants can be beneficial for those subject to a law enforcement investigation and allegations that require physical evidence, like drug charges. Those who know and assert their rights are less likely to end up unfairly convicted of criminal activity.