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What Is The Purpose of a Search Warrant?

Search and seizure is a law enforcement procedure where officers search a person’s property and confiscate anything that is illegal or that can be used as evidence of an illegal act. However, all people in the United States are protected from unreasonable search and seizure by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment reads as follows: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Except in a few circumstances, when a law enforcement officer wants to conduct a search and seizure, he or she must obtain a search warrant. The search warrant details what is to be searched, where the search is being conducted and what evidence is to be seized. To be legal, the search warrant must be reviewed and signed by a judge who has determined that the requested search is reasonable and probable cause exists to believe that the person whose property is being searched is involved in illegal activity.

Search warrant limits

A search warrant can only be used to conduct a search of the property or person named in the warrant. In addition, officers conducting the search may only search for the property listed on the warrant. However, if the officers find other contraband or evidence of criminal activity while they are searching for the evidence named in the warrant, then it may also be seized.

Search warrants not always required

Although the Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable search and seizure, the courts allow the procedure to be conducted without a warrant in certain situations. These situations include the following:

  • The person or owner of the property consents to the search
  • Illegal materials or evidence of illegal activity is in plain view
  • A person may be searched if he or she is under arrest

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