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Warrant

Warrant

The Fourth Amendment provides that in order to be valid, a search and seizure must be supported a warrant.  Additionally, the Fourth Amendment states that the warrant must be executed under oath and contain a sufficient description of the place to be searched as well as the evidence or person to be seized.  The two main types of warrants are search warrants and arrest warrants.  A search warrant authorizes the search of a specific location as well as the seizure of specific contraband found therein.  An arrest warrant authorizes a person’s arrest.

What is the purpose of a warrant? A warrant authorizes a sheriff or police officer to conduct a search, a seizure or an arrest.  In other words, a warrant authorizes law enforcement to circumvent the privacy protections of the Fourth Amendment.  However, the law imposes specific requirements in order for a warrant to be valid. 

How is a warrant obtained? A warrant is an order issued by a court of law that authorizes a sheriff or a police officer to conduct a search, a seizure or an arrest.  In order to be valid, the warrant must be supported with a sworn statement called an affidavit.  The affidavit must provide detailed information to support the warrant.  The law uses the term “probable cause” to describe the evidentiary purpose of the affidavit.  In other words, the affidavit must provide a basis for a reasonable, impartial man to believe that a crime has either been committed or is about to be committed. 

I was arrested, and I think the warrant is invalid.  Now what?  Any evidence that police obtain by use of an invalid warrant can be thrown out of court.  That is to say, if the warrant is effectively challenged in court, a judge can “suppress” or exclude all of the evidence that was improperly obtained by an invalid search warrant.  A warrant must be supported by probable cause that is based upon a police officer’s own knowledge.  That is to say, an officer’s mere suspicion or belief is inadequate to provide probable cause for a warrant.