The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution governs the use of search warrants. It prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and mandates the existence of probable cause before a search warrant is issued. But once a warrant is issued, what does it cover?
How are search warrants issued?
Michigan Statute Section 780.651 spells out the requirements which must be met before a search warrant is issued. Law enforcement goes to a judge in order to get a search warrant. They must convince the judge that probable cause exists to believe that evidence of a crime exists in the place which is to be searched. If the judge concludes that there is a fair probability the evidence exists, they can issue the search warrant.
What can be searched for?
The location of the proposed search must be specified in the warrant. However, depending upon the breadth of the location’s description, law enforcement may be able to search vehicles at that location. A warrant can also include specific individuals to be searched. If it does not, individuals found at the location are generally excluded from the search. But individuals can still be searched independently of the warrant if officers develop probable cause or have safety concerns while there.
Michigan law lists many things that may be searched for with a warrant, including stolen property, contraband and anything which is intended to be used in the commission of a crime. Anything which is evidence of a past crime may be searched for, as well as the bodies of either human beings or animals.
Law enforcement may seize anything which falls within the warrant’s description but they are not limited to the warrant. If, while conducting the warrant search, they find anything else which would also be in violation of the law, they can seize that too.
Challenging the issuance and execution of a search warrant can be a viable way to defend against criminal charges. An experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney can help determine whether challenging the warrant is an appropriate avenue to attack a prosecutor’s case.