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Things to Do When the Police Show Up with a Search Warrant


A search warrant copy in a law firm.The thought of police showing up with a search warrant to search your home, business, or personal effects, is terrifying. However, it can happen to anyone at any time, even if you didn’t do anything wrong. It is important that you know your rights and how to exercise your rights to protect yourself. At the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, our lawyers are committed to advocating on behalf of people who face serious criminal charges. We command an impressive understanding of both state and federal search and seizure law, which we use in each of our client’s cases.

What Is a Search Warrant?

A search warrant is a legal document that a judge or magistrate signs, which allows police officers to search a particular place. The requirement that police officers get a search warrant stems from constitutional protections contained in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment provides that, “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.”

To obtain a search warrant, a police officer needs to show the judge or magistrate that they have probable cause to believe the area to be searched contains evidence related to a crime. Typically, a police officer presents the judge with an affidavit of probable cause, which outlines the officer’s reason for asking for the warrant. The judge will review the affidavit and determine if probable cause exists. If they find probable cause, the judge signs the warrant.

Once the magistrate or judge signs the search warrant, the police can execute it. Law enforcement must execute most warrants during daylight hours. And generally, police officers must knock and announce their presence before barging into a home.

What to Do When the Police Show Up

If the police knock on your door and tell you it’s time to come outside, everything you do for the next few minutes is important. You cannot afford to make a mistake, as it could cost you your life or your freedom.

Verify the Type of Warrant

The first thing you should do is determine whether the police have a search warrant or an arrest warrant. A search warrant is not the same thing as an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant gives police officers the right to arrest someone for a crime they allegedly already committed. Once police arrest the person named in the warrant, they can conduct a limited search of that person. For example, the officers can pat them down. However, without a search warrant, police officers arresting someone on an arrest warrant cannot search that person’s entire house. If police only have an arrest warrant, they can arrest you but they cannot search your entire home unless you give them permission.

Don’t Let Them Search Without a Warrant

Police officers must provide you with a copy of the warrant. So, if they tell you they have a warrant but cannot provide documentation, you shouldn’t consent to a search. Do not try to physically stop them. Do not argue with them. Remain calm and simply state in clear terms that you are not giving the officers permission to search your home. This is critical because if you consent, you lose your ability to challenge the officer’s actions leading up to the search.

For example, assume an officer knocks on your door claiming to have enough evidence to get a warrant. He tells you he’ll take it easy on you if you save him the trouble of getting a warrant. So, he asks you to consent to the search and you agree. By allowing the officer to search your home, you can no longer argue that he didn’t have probable cause to obtain a warrant. In other words, he doesn’t need a warrant because you let him in.

Check the Warrant for Accuracy

If you are dealing with a search warrant, you’ll want to ensure that the address listed on the warrant is correct. If the police officers give you a copy of the warrant, be sure to keep it in a safe place.

Always Be Calm and Predictable

If the police show up at your home with a warrant, you may need to advocate on your own behalf. Perhaps you advocate for yourself by asking to inspect the warrant. Or maybe you deny an officer’s request to search additional areas of your home outside of what is listed in the warrant. Either way, it’s important to stand up for your rights.

However, when you interact with police officers, the importance of remaining calm cannot be overstated. Even if the officers are disrespectful and violating your rights, losing your cool is only going to jeopardize your safety. Instead, take out your phone and start recording video of the officers in action. You have a right to observe officers performing the search and document anything you see. Your presence and attention to details may prevent the officers from trying to exceed the scope of the warrant.

If you notice something is wrong with the warrant or believe that the police violated your rights during the course of their investigation, wait to challenge the search later. If you have questions about what to do after a search, reach out to a criminal charges defense lawyer for assistance.

Are You Facing Serious Criminal Charges?

If you were recently arrested, contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices for immediate assistance. Our team of criminal charges defense attorneys has decades of experience representing clients in the most complex and high-stakes cases. We command an impressive knowledge of state and federal search and seizure law. We use this knowledge to ensure that any illegally obtained evidence is not used against our clients. So call today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys at the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. Or you can connect with us through our online form. We can help you defend your freedom and your future.