The police are at the door – and they have a search warrant. This is a stressful situation in any circumstance. However, once the door is open, the police cannot search just anywhere, wandering through your whole residence. The search warrant will tell you where the police are allowed to search.
So, here are a few important things for you to know.
First: What makes a search warrant valid?
Under North Carolina law, a valid search warrant must meet specific conditions. A warrant must:
- Name the official who issued the warrant
- Include the date they issued the warrant
- List the names of officers the warrant addresses, or the officers allowed to conduct the search
- List the affidavits or testimonies given that led to the search or the probable cause for the search
- Designate where officers can search within reason
- Designate what items the officers are searching for, or what they can seize during the search
There are other legal factors that can make a search warrant valid or invalid, but these are the critical details of which you should be aware. It is important to note that if the warrant includes errors of your personal information – such as a misspelled name or wrong address – or any of the factors listed above, then the warrant could be considered invalid.
Review where – and what – police can search
It is important to remember that you have the right to:
- Ask to see the warrant
- Be present for the search, but not intervene
When reviewing the warrant, you should check the locations included. This will not only answer where the police can search but where they cannot as well. The locations must be specific. For example, if the warrant states police can search your vehicle, then they cannot search your whole house.
The specific details of where police can search – and what they can seize – also come into play with technology. Usually, a warrant must specifically state that police can search or seize a computer or hard drive. The warrant cannot simply state that police can seize your “records.” This language is too broad. Even so, police can often seize other items not listed if it is an illegal substance or contraband item found in the area they searched.
Your constitutional rights protect you from illegal or unjust searches. That is why it is critical to understand these details, so you can protect those rights if you or a loved one faces the risk of criminal charges.