There is a knock at your door (or maybe not) and suddenly the police are storming into your house. They claim they have a search warrant. What are your rights? What do you do now?
Police across Pennsylvania and New Jersey execute hundreds of thousands of search warrants each year. These warrants can be for people, known as "body warrants" or evidence of a crime. The police may obtain search warrants for houses, apartments, cars or any location that is specified within the warrant that has been approved by a judge or neutral magistrate, assuming there is probable cause to search a particular location.
We are not going to discuss when the police conduct a search without a warrant, which they often do. That is a discussion for another time. This article deals with the situation where the police announce "search warrant" or provide you with a copy of the warrant.
Speaking of a copy of the search warrant, under Pennsylvania law the police must provide you with a copy of the warrant and the affidavit of probable cause that supports it. Moreover, they must provide you with a list of any items taken or seized during the execution of the warrant. Demand a copy of the warrant and the affidavit. The police may only search for items specified in the warrant, and more importantly, they may only search in areas where it is reasonable they may find the items they are looking for. Thus, if they are looking for a stolen car they cannot search your bedroom closet.
Furthermore, Pennsylvania has adopted the "knock and announce" rule for search warrants. Police must first knock, identify themselves and their purpose, prior to entry into a home, even with a valid search warrant. An illegal entry can result in evidence seized being thrown out by a trial court.
If the police have searched your home, apartment or car, with or without a warrant, you need a lawyer who knows the law and will fight to protect your rights. The lawyers at Scarpello & LaTour have won hundreds of motions to suppress in which they have challenged police search warrants. Getting such evidence dismissed often leads to a not guilty verdict or even a dismissal of all criminal charges. Contact our office today to understand and protect your rights.