Requirements that Police Must Follow to Execute a Search Warrant

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Search Warrant Requirements in New Mexico and how they can Affect Your Criminal Case

search warrant Even with a search warrant, law enforcement still has limitations. To understand those limitations, you must first know what a search warrant is, how law enforcement obtains one, and what it allows them to do.

What is a Search Warrant?

A search warrant is a legal authorization issued by an authority (a judge) that allows police officers to search a particular place for evidence – without the owner or occupant’s consent. To not violate a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, police must obtain a search warrant.

How Do Police Obtain a Search Warrant?

To get a search warrant, police officers must petition a judge, and the judge must issue the warrant. Law enforcement must show that they have probable cause, which justifies the issuance of a search warrant. Sometimes, this means providing evidence or an affidavit to the judge. They must also state where they will search and the items that they seek. This information is then relayed in the search warrant text. If the order lacks specific evidence or areas, then it is not valid.

Requirements When Executing a Search Warrant

Even when law enforcement has the search warrant in hand, and signed by a judge, there are protocols that they must follow. First, there is the knock-and-announce rule. This means that the officers executing the search warrant cannot force their way inside or immediately enter a private residence. Instead, the first officers must knock and announce their identities, as well as their intent. Then, they must wait for a reasonable amount of time for the occupant to answer.

Exceptions to the Knock and Announce Rule

While officers are required to knock and announce, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes, officers will have a no-knock warrant, which means that they can enter the property without announcing intent or presence. These are only issued when there is reasonable suspicion that evidence might be destroyed if the police officers were to announce their identity to the occupants.

Timing of Searches

Officers are required to time their searches during the day. However, the definition of night can easily be stretched. Typically, states follow the federal rules of criminal procedure, which means that searches can run from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Extent of the Search

With the warrant, police officers only have the authority to search the places and individuals listed in the order. They may only find the evidence sought after, and they can only search in areas where they would reasonably find the evidence. For example, an officer looking for a large rifle cannot justify searching a small jewelry box.

While they have limitations on their searches, officers can detain people who they find at the site during the search. If they locate sufficient evidence while searching, they can arrest and search the people who they find – even if those people are not named in the warrant.

Protect Your Rights from Unlawful Searches – Contact an Attorney Today

If the police have searched your home and seized evidence, you have rights. Often, protocols are ignored, but police assume that defendants do not know criminal procedure. To ensure that your rights were not violated, and to receive expert-level defense, contact the criminal defense attorneys at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices at 505-375-4671 or send us a message online.