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It may be possible to challenge the validity of a signed warrant

Most Texans may understand that members of law enforcement generally need to have a warrant to enter a home to search for evidence of a potential crime. Our homes are sanctuaries that receive strong constitutional protection under the warrant requirement. Law enforcement often works to obtain a warrant to search homes for potential evidence of a crime. It is important to note, however, that the existence of a signed search warrant is not necessarily the final word on the reasonableness of the search.

Members of law enforcement typically supply a judge or magistrate with written or oral statements outlining their basis to believe that the is sufficient individualized suspicion that evidence of a specific crime may be found in a search. The court will evaluate whether the alleged suspicions rise to the level of probable cause to reasonably believe the evidence exists at the specified location. The application for a warrant may be lengthy, but length alone is not always constitutionally sound.

Do Not Be Misled By The Number Of Words Explaining An Investigation

For example, the lawyers for a man on the East Coast reviewed a 10-page application for a warrant that was signed by a judicial official and challenged the validity of the signed warrant. Police were investigating a homicide and sought to search man's home to obtain cellphones and similar electronic devices.

The warrant application included an allegation that the man was a member of a gang. Police assumed, in writing, that gang members use cellphones with other alleged co-conspirators before, or during the commission, of crimes. Moreover, the police assumed in the application, again in writing, that the man that they wanted to investigate owned a cellphone that would be found in his home.

The trial court found that the warrant application sufficiently supported probable cause for a search. At the time of the search, police claim that they found a firearm that had been allegedly tossed out a window when police arrived to search the home. The man was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

On appeal to The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the appellate panel disagreed with the judicial officer that signed the warrant and the trial court judge that the warrant was valid. The appellate judges determined that police did not assert that they had any personalized knowledge or evidence that the man owned a cellphone.

Essentially, police simply assumed that everyone has a phone and relied in a stereotype that gang members use cellphones. Because the challenge to the warrant on appeal was successful, the conviction was overturned. The warrant was not constitutionally valid--meaning that police were not lawfully in the home when the gun was allegedly thrown out the window. Evidence of the weapon was unlawfully obtained.

Getting Thorough Representation From A Defense Lawyer Is Critical

Generic assumptions may find their way into many applications for a warrant. Police, and judicial officers can make mistakes. A warrant application is not an adversarial process. Moreover, as the story shows, mistakes in an investigation of one issue may taint evidence used to support additional charges that arise as a result of an investigation. A criminal case allows defense lawyers to challenge evidence and hold law enforcement and prosecutors to their burden of proof.

It is critical for anyone accused of a crime to not simply believe that evidence says what police think it says and assume that they are guilty. Obtaining the guidance and representation of a trial-proven criminal defense lawyer is critical for people accused of crimes in safeguarding rights.

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