What is a Search Warrant, and What Does it Do?

A search warrant is a court order that allows police to search a certain piece of private property and collect evidence of an alleged crime; search warrants are part of criminal investigations, and the evidence collected can be presented to a grand jury or at a criminal trial.

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects against illegal search and seizure. This means that, most of the time, the police do not have the right to enter your house or vehicle without your permission or to confiscate your property. In most cases, the only way that it is legal for police to search your property is by obtaining a search warrant. Just because police have found items in your residence or car that they think counts as evidence of a crime, it does not automatically mean that you are guilty. Likewise, if the police searched your property without a warrant, there is room for disagreement about whether it is fair to let prosecutors show the jury the evidence they found. To find out more about search warrants and how they affect your criminal case, contact an Austin search warrants lawyer.

What Information Does a Search Warrant Contain?

To obtain a search warrant, law enforcement officers must persuade a judge that they have probable cause to search a particular place, such as a house or office, for evidence of a crime. The officers do this by submitting an affidavit, which is a written statement explaining what crime they think occurred and why they think they will find evidence of it at the place they want to search. If the officers’ arguments are convincing enough, the judge will issue a search warrant, which is a court order giving the police permission to search the place.

  • A search warrant must contain the following information:
  • A statement that the warrant is being issued by the “State of Texas”
  • The name and signature of the judge who issued the warrant
  • The place that police are allowed to search
  • A description of the items that the police are allowed to remove if they find them

Can the Court Convict You if the Police Searched Your Property Without a Warrant?

In general, police can search your property if the evidence was in plain view (such as if you left drug paraphernalia on your driveway); they can also search vehicles at traffic stops if there was probable cause. There is room for debate about what constitutes probable cause to search a car or to obtain a search warrant. Therefore, it is possible that, even if the police had a search warrant, the search was illegal. Evidence obtained during an illegal search is not admissible in court.

An Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You Suppress Evidence Obtained During an Illegal Search

A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges after a police officer searched your vehicle or other property without probable cause. Contact Granger and Mueller in Austin, Texas or call (512)474-9999.