Understanding Search Warrants in California
A search warrant is an order issued by the court, which allows law enforcement officials to search you, your vehicle, home or place of business if police believe they may find evidence pointing to criminal activity. If officials discover any evidence stated in the search warrant, they can seize the evidence that was found during the search. Understanding search warrants is important when facing criminal charges as there are policies, procedures and protocols that police must adhere to in the process of obtaining and executing a search warrant. When your rights are violated during a search, the criminal charges that stem from such an illegal search and seizure could be dismissed.
The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have had a long and successful track record of getting charges dropped and cases dismissed on behalf of our clients whose rights were violated during the obtaining and execution of a search warrant. Attorneys have also obtained case dismissals in cases where the search warrants had insufficient details or no probable cause.
Who Issues a Search Warrant?
A search warrant is issued and signed by a judge, who determines if a search is warranted. A judge may make that determination after looking into whether a crime has been committed and if evidence relating to that crime is likely to be found at the location of the search described in the warrant. The search warrant becomes effective when a judge signs and issues it. A search warrant is different from an arrest warrant, which is an authorization to arrest someone who has been charged with a crime. Another type of warrant is a bench warrant, which is issued by a judge when a person violates court rules such as failing to appear for a court hearing or failing to pay a fine.
Understanding Search Warrants and Probable Cause
A judge can only issue a search warrant when he or she has probable cause to do so. What this means is that the judge must reasonably believe that criminal activity has taken place. The judge must also have reasonable belief that the evidence relating to the criminal activity will be found at the location of the proposed search.
A judge may question law enforcement officers, prosecutors, witnesses or investigators who may have applied for the search warrant in order to determine if probable cause exists. The application for a search warrant, which should satisfy the criteria for such a warrant, is known as an affidavit. The affidavit should satisfactorily establish the basis for the search by showing probable cause.
Motions to Suppress Evidence – California Penal Code section 1538.5
A knowledgeable California criminal defense attorney will challenge a search warrant with a “motion to suppress evidence” under California Penal Code section 1538.5. This type of a motion will be filed on behalf of your attorney if you want to have certain evidence excluded from your trial. Your attorney may file this motion by arguing that:
• the California search warrant had insufficient details.
• there was no probable cause to issue the warrant.
• the evidence was found in a location other than the one specified in the search warrant.
• the search warrant was not executed legally.
If your motion to suppress evidence is granted, the prosecution cannot use the seized evidence against you during the trial. For example, if drugs were illegally seized from your person or vehicle, then, the drugs cannot be used as evidence during your trial. This often leads to the prosecution dismissing the charges against you.
How Wallin & Klarich Can Help
Retaining the services of an experienced California criminal defense lawyer at Wallin & Klarich can give you the edge you require in these types of complex cases and help you in understanding search warrants in California. Our skilled and knowledgeable defense lawyers have dealt with illegal search and seizure cases for over 40 years and have successfully obtained dismissals in many cases. We can make a significant difference in your case. Call us at (877) 466-5245. We will get through this together.