The state needs evidence if a Virginia prosecutor intends to file criminal charges against an individual. Police officers often have the difficult task of properly collecting and analyzing evidence so that the state can file charges against someone who is suspected of criminal wrongdoing.
Sometimes, police officers are able to conduct a search because they secure permission from an individual. Other times, in rare situations, probable cause may justify a search due to reasonable suspicion of a crime in progress. However, Virginia law and federal rules are very clear that non-consensual searches typically require a warrant. What does someone need to know if police officers show up at their home and present a search warrant?
The warrant should be accurate
One of the first steps an individual presented with a search warrant likely needs to take is to review the warrant carefully or contact someone that they trust to do so. Sometimes, police officers make mistakes, and the document might have the wrong address or inaccurate information. Additionally, the warrant might lack a judge’s signature. Incorrect details or a missing signature would both be reasons to question the validity of the search warrant and potentially deny officers access to a property to search. Those warrant issues might also undermine the validity of the evidence gathered during a search in some cases.
Officers should respect limitations on the scope of the search
A search warrant has to indicate where officers will search and roughly what they expect to locate. However, officers who have gained access to someone’s property might attempt to expand the scope of the search and potentially violate the rights of the individual involved. For example, if officers intend to seize someone’s electronic devices, the warrant would typically need to account for that in addition to any physical search that takes place.
Often, individuals have a hard time asserting themselves when dealing with police officers. Those who hope to challenge the validity of a search warrant or the way that officers execute one often require guidance from professionals familiar with criminal law. Protecting oneself from unreasonable searches (or “the fruits” of unreasonable searches that have already occurred) can be of the utmost importance for those hoping to avoid a criminal conviction in Virginia.