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What to expect when served with a search warrant

A forceful knock followed by a disembodied voice yelling “Police, open the door!” can induce shock and unquestioning compliance but it is important to understand your rights when faced with a search warrant.

 

What is a search warrant?

A search warrant is a document issued by a judge giving officers permission to search a location, such as a private residence, for particular items, like drugs or stolen property. The search can be performed anytime day or night and the officers performing the search must be the officials listed on the warrant. Officers are permitted to enter the residence by force if they are refused entry after announcing their purpose and requesting admittance. This could include breaking open doors and windows to gain entry.

If you are named in the search warrant you have a right to receive a copy. Warrants are issued in duplicate, so the issuing officer has a copy and another copy is to be given to person named within the document. If you are not provided with a copy of the warrant it can be obtained from the clerk at the courthouse where the warrant was issued.

Grounds for issuing a search warrant

Detailed grounds for issuing a search warrant are outlined in Florida statute 933.02, but here are some of the more common reasons:

  • Property has been stolen
  • Property has been used to commit a crime
  • Property is evidence to a felony
  • Property is being held in violation of the law
  • Animal cruelty laws have been violated

Seizure of property

If property is taken during the search the officer needs to provide a detailed inventory of any property taken. You may request a copy of the inventory. A judge is the only person who can order property to be returned, but certain property such as liquor or gambling things will not be returned.

Having your residence searched can be an intrusive and stressful experience. If you feel your rights were violated during a search you can seek legal advice.

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Thomas G. Fallis, P.A.
2064 Park Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204

Phone: 904-717-6684
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  • ABA Defending Liberty Pursuing Justice
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