Understanding Search Warrants And Affidavits
The nation was riveted to the news: Former president Donald Trump’s Mara Lago resort had been the location of an FBI search. There were reportedly dozens of agents on the property, going through various rooms, and even Trump’s safe. Since then, the media has been flooded with words like “warrant” and “affidavit.” Understanding these, and other legal terminology becomes critical to understanding searches in this country.
The 4th Amendment
The 4th Amendment of the Constitution guards against unreasonable search and seizures. That is why obtaining a search warrant requires law enforcement to establish probable cause and to get the blessing of the court prior to executing a search warrant.
Probable cause is the reasonable belief– based on factual evidence– that there is evidence of a crime in a particular location. It may be based on any of four things:
- Observations made by an officer;
- Circumstantial evidence that has accumulated and, in conjunction, implies criminal activity;
- Expertise in a given area that allows an officer to draw reasonable conclusions that a crime has occurred;
- Information and testimony provided from other sources.
An affidavit must be filed with the court laying out probable cause in order to obtain a court-sanctioned search warrant. Assuming the evidence is convincing, a judge will then issue the warrant. That warrant would later become problematic if it is discovered that a reckless disregard for the truth led to dishonesty in claiming probable cause:
- Making material misrepresentations in the warrant: If an officer intentionally includes false statements to establish probable cause, the very basis for the search warrant would be based on a lie. The defendant could then request a suppression hearing and the evidence obtained in the search could be deemed inadmissible in court.
- Making material omissions in the warrant: Likewise, if an officer calculatedly withholds information in the affidavit in an effort to establish probable cause, the same outcome could result.
The search warrant is the actual magistrate-approved order that directs law enforcement officers to search a specific person, place, or thing. A copy of the warrant and a list of items taken must be given to the subject.
Fighting Invalid Searches
When a search goes outside the bounds of the warrant, or when probable cause has been created out of thin air with duplicity, the search could be ruled invalid. The experienced Miami criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos closely examine every element of a case, including the lawfulness of the probable cause search. If you need a robust defense, contact our office for a confidential consultation today.