A search warrant allows law enforcement to search you, your home or your business. Search warrants can be issued for a person, a residence, a business or almost any other type of location, such as a car, yard or outbuilding.
No one is prepared for an onslaught of police officers showing up at your home or business intent on searching through your rooms, belongings or your person; and carting away you, your possessions, documents, or another person from your property.
The search warrant is a formal order issued by a court and signed by a judge, or magistrate, that allows police officers or agents to enter the home or place of business. A valid search warrant must describe the exact place to be searched and the person or the things that may be taken. The warrant allows officers to enter the location without your permission and whether you are present or not.
In most cases, the search must be executed between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. and officers must knock or announce themselves before entering your home.
During the search, police can only seize the property or person described in the warrant. If in the course of their search they come across evidence of illegal conduct in plain view during the search, but not listed in the warrant they may be able take possession of that evidence as well.
Police get a search warrant by showing to a judge “probable cause” to obtain a valid search warrant. That is, they must show evidence or witness statements that lead them to believe you have committed a crime, or are about to commit one. The evidence establishing probable cause is presented to the judge under oath, usually in the form of an affidavit that details the law enforcement observations or witness statements that justify the warrant.
The suspect is not present during the process of obtaining a warrant so the person cannot dispute the evidence or the issuing of the search warrant. However later you may be able to challenge the validity of the search warrant, and may even be able to have the evidence collected deemed inadmissible, or “excluded.”
Most executives and employees are completely unprepared or trained to deal with law enforcement officers showing up at the business with a search warrant. The process can confuse and shock employees, which may cause them to say or do something that could expose you or your business to criminal or civil liability. It is especially important that managers or employees assert, and do not waive, important rights when presented with a search warrant.
The warrant will likely allow officers to take away original business records. That could impact your ability to continue doing business. Many businesses make it a habit to store copies of essential business records offsite in case of some disaster. That practice could also prove valuable in the event of a search and seizure event.
Jeremy N. Goldman defends clients in criminal enforcement actions brought by Orange County prosecutors, and state and federal agencies. He is a distinguished criminal defense attorney and trial lawyer and is among the small percentage of attorneys certified by the California Bar as a specialist in criminal law. He has a track record over more than 22 years of successfully defending criminal cases, often getting charges dismissed or winning acquittals in jury trials. Call the Law Offices of Jeremy Goldman at 949-387-6670 or email confidentially online.
Serving Orange County including Irvine, Laguna Niguel, Tustin, Anaheim, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Mission Viejo, Huntington Beach, Santa Ana, Westminster, Fullerton, Aliso Viejo, Buena Park, and Laguna Beach.
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