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A Guide to Search Warrants in California

Posted in Criminal Defense on July 24, 2020

A search warrant is what allows law enforcement officials in California to search a person, vehicle, residents, place of business, or other area suspected of containing or harboring evidence of illegal activity. If police officers find the evidence they are looking for, the search warrant will allow them to seize that evidence. It is important to understand the basics of a search warrant in California, particularly if you or somebody you love has been charged with a crime, and you believe that the search was conducted illegally. If you have any concerns regarding your rights, speak to a Riverside criminal attorney who will defend your rights and make sure you are treated fairly.

What is needed for police to obtain search warrants?

There are various criteria that can be used to justify a search warrant being issued. Below, you will find some examples of the grounds for which a California search warrant could be issued:

  • If the sought property was allegedly used to commit a felony offense
  • If the sought property was allegedly stolen
  • If the sought reveals child pornography or related material
  • If the sought property contains evidence of the fact that a felony has occurred or the person has committed a felony
  • If the sought property is in the possession of a person who intends to use it to commit a crime

If the property sought in a search warrant is being held by a doctor, mental health professional, attorney, or member of the clergy, then there will be special procedures used before the evidence can be seized through a search warrant. However, even in these cases, the doctor, mental health professional, attorney, or clergyperson must be the individual suspected of engaging in the criminal activity.

In order for a search warrant to be issued, there must be probable cause for a judge to sign off. Probable cause refers to the “reasonable” belief that criminal activity is taking place or has already taken place. Before a judge issues a search warrant, they may question the following people under oath:

  • The police officer
  • The prosecutor
  • Any witnesses they had been relied upon to determine that a search warrant was necessary

What is the knock and announce rule?

The knock and announce rule, commonly referred to as “knock-notice” search warrants, refer to the following rules that an officer must follow before a search warrant can be executed at a person’s home or business. The officer must:

  • Knock on the door
  • Announce themselves as a law enforcement officer
  • Inform the occupant of the premises that there is a search warrant
  • Give the occupant enough time to open the door

Please note that it is generally accepted that a person can be informed that there is a warrant after they have opened the door. However, there is no uniform rule as to exactly how a “knock and announce” search warrant order should be executed. This can make it difficult when it comes to determining whether or not the police officers properly executed the search warrant.

In instances where there is a valid search warrant, but the owner or occupant refuses to open the door or permit officers in the home, the police are allowed to break a door, window, or other part of the structure to execute the search warrant.

Have your rights been violated? Contact Graham Donath

If you or somebody you love believes that your rights have been violated pertaining to a search warrant that has been executed by law enforcement, contact the Law Offices of Graham Donath, APC immediately. Time is of the essence in these situations, and our criminal defense attorneys will be able to investigate all aspects of the charges against you, including whether or not there was probable cause to execute a search warrant. You can contact us for a consultation on your case by clicking here or by calling as soon as possible.