Houston Criminal Lawyer
experienced, aggressive representation


What is a Search Warrant? Everything You Need to Know About Search Warrants

One of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all Americans is spelled out in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment guarantees individuals protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures.” What this means is, governmental authorities must obtain a search warrant before they are allowed to enter property to look for contraband.

How is a Search Warrant Obtained?

When police officers suspect an individual of committing a crime, they will petition a neutral and detached magistrate for a search warrant. A neutral and detached magistrate is one who:

  • Has no involvement in the matter at hand
  • Is unbiased against any of the parties involved
  • Does not get paid a fee for each warrant that is issued

When visiting this magistrate, officers are required to show that probable cause exists. This means that there is a high probability that incriminating evidence will be found at a certain location. In addition, the type of evidence that’s being sought and its suspected location should be stated in an application for a search warrant. This “particularity requirement” allows officers to search only in specific locations and only for items that they have probable cause to believe are on those premises.

Why is a Search Warrant Needed?

A search warrant protects private citizens from unwanted intrusions by the government. Since officers must show probable cause in order to obtain a warrant, it prevents them from arbitrarily entering a home in order to find incriminating evidence. A warrant also protects one’s privacy, since it limits the scope of a search to areas that are absolutely necessary.

What if a Search Warrant is Violated?

Searches must be conducted in a lawful manner. If that fails to happen, any evidence that is obtained as a result of that search may not be admissible in a court of law. A key provision in the legal arena is the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine. This doctrine states that if the source of evidence (the tree) is tainted, any evidence that is produced by that source (the fruit) is also tainted and cannot be used in a court of law.

There are some exceptions to the warrant requirement. These exceptions are rare; they are only allowed when taking the time to obtain a warrant would be unreasonable. A few of the exceptions include items that are in plain view or a Terry Stop, a brief detainment that allows officers to pat down a suspect’s outer garments for safety reasons.

If you believe that your rights were violated by law enforcement personnel, get in touch with Houston Attorney Shahin Zamir at 713-223-8900.