Federal Warrants and Search and Seizure
When a federal law enforcement agency, such as the the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), has reason to believe you committed a crime, they have a right to ask the court for a warrant to search your property. If you are involved in a federal criminal investigation, you might have federal law enforcement agents show up at your door.
Search warrants can be executed at any time and you will most likely feel a lot of stress when agents just show up to search your home. It should be noted that under federal laws, the agents have a legal right to conduct a search of your home, but it doesn't mean there are no limits.
If you have reason to believe you might come into contact with federal agents associated with a search and seizure of your person or property, you need to contact a federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The federal criminal justice system is complex and you have constitutional rights that need to be protected.
We can give you valuable information on what you should know and how to prepare yourself if you get into a situation that involves a federal warrant.
If any federal agency has a reasonable belief you participated in committing a federal offense, they can ask a federal magistrate to issue a warrant to search your property. However, in order to obtain a federal warrant, they will have to present a written affidavit detailing the reasons why they believe you committed a crime, and the reasons why they believe evidence of the crime could be found on the property they want to search.
If the federal agents give the magistrate enough information so that they believe the facts presented in the affidavit support their own belief, they will then sign the search and seizure warrant that allows the federal agents to search your property.
To give readers a better understanding of federal search warrants and a warrantless search and seizure, our federal criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.
Fourth Amendment Protection
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable search and seizures and requires a search warrant to be judicially sanctioned and that they must be supported by probable cause. It states that:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, will not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized”
The Fourth Amendment protects distinct types of expectations connected with a federal warrant, including searches and other seizures:
- Search occurring when reasonable expectation of privacy is infringed
- Seizure of property occurring when there is interference with someone's property
- Seizure of a person occurring when there is interference with someone's freedom
Our federal criminal defense attorneys will make sure your rights under the Fourth Amendment are protected and will make legal challenges on the legality of a search and seizure of a person or property when appropriate.
It should be noted that even in a situation when federal warrants are issued and not provided during a search and seizure, it might still be possible to exclude the incriminating evidence.
As stated above, recall that federal warrants can only be issued after showing a magistrate that probable cause exists in order to support the search. The United States Supreme Court describes “probable cause” as a fair probability that evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.
Challenging the Legality of a Federal Warrant
It might be possible to challenge the legality of a search and seizure of a person or property. However, a federal criminal lawyer must be able to establish sufficient grounds for such claim, such as a legitimate expectation of privacy by the defendant that the federal government violated the expectation.
It should be noted that while federal courts will usually consider all circumstances in order to evaluate probable cause for a federal warrant, there are still several issues an experienced lawyer can review in order to challenge the legality of the federal warrant, including:
- The specific place to be searched
- The particular items to be seized
- False statements used to support the affidavit
- Unreliable evidence used to support agent's affidavit
- Credibility of informant who provided information
- Issues with the execution of the search warrant
- Issues with probable cause to obtain the warrant
Each case will have its own set of unique facts and circumstances and we will need to closely examine all the details in order to determine an appropriate strategy to challenge the warrant.
There are a few common ways to attack a federal warrant. For example, if the warrant was executed and agents seized items that were not specifically listed on the warrant, then your attorney can challenge that evidence from being used against you. If they can prove the evidence was obtained unlawfully, then the items could be suppressed.
A federal criminal lawyer can also attack the legitimacy of a federal warrant by contesting it in a federal court. For example, if the agents didn't provide sufficient probable cause to the magistrate when requesting the warrant, then it might be possible to have the warrant quashed. If successful, then all the evidence that was seized can't be used against you in court.
Contact our Federal Criminal Attorneys for Help
Just because federal law enforcement agents had a search warrant, it doesn't automatically mean the warrant was valid. Recall that the Fourth Amendment protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures.
This means there is specific criteria a search warrant has to meet for it to be valid. As stated, it must describe the place to be searched and the person or items to be seized, and they must be based on probable cause. This means it's reasonably likely the search will uncover evidence of a crime.
Our criminal lawyers may be able to show the warrant wasn't based on probable cause or was overly broad in the description where federal agents were permitted to search. The government's goal in executing a search warrant at your home is locate and seize incriminating evidence related to an ongoing federal criminal investigation.
Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because you are under a federal criminal investigation, you don't have any legal rights. Our federal defense attorneys will closely examine all the details to determine a strategy for best possible outcome.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a top-rated criminal defense law firm that represents clients nationwide against any type of federal crime. We are located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067. We also have an office in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact our office for a consultation at 877-781-1570