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Understanding the requirements for a search warrant

In order for law enforcement to collect evidence on a defendant in New York or elsewhere, it is likely that a search warrant will be required. The failure to properly obtain a search warrant could mean that evidence improperly collected will be suppressed. Ultimately, this could help defendants reduce or dismiss the criminal charges against them.

In order to understand whether a search warrant is required, defendants should understand why search warrants are issued and when they are not required. The basis for search warrants is to protect the Fourth Amendment right of citizens. This Amendment provides the right for citizens to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects. Additionally, it also protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures.

In order for a search to be considered reasonable, a judge must issue a search warrant based on probable cause, or there must be circumstances that justify a search without a warrant because the situation would not allow for the time to obtain a search warrant due to the threats presented by the current situation. For example, searching for a weapon after an arrest is often legal.

A search warrant is not required when a person does not have a legitimate expectation of privacy. This determination is based on a two-part test. First, did a person subjectively expect the place or thing to be private, and two, was that expectation objectively reasonable? If the answer is yes to both parts of this test, then there was a legitimate expectation of privacy and a search warrant is required.

If a search is conducted without a warrant and a defendant believes that the situation required a warrant, this could be part of a criminal defense strategy. This defense method could help suppress some or all evidence uncovered from the unreasonable search and seizure, helping the accused to avoid harsh penalties or consequences.

Source: Criminal.findlaw.com, "Search Warrant Requirements," accessed April 11, 2016

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