Under the Fourth Amendment, we have the right to be sure that our person, house, vehicle, and other property are protected from unreasonable search and seizure. However, while there are numerous exceptions that are able to bypass this right, the State and its police officers must obtain a valid warrant to perform a lawful search, otherwise the contents discovered on that search are not valid in a court of law. By knowing the requirements of a search warrant in Minnesota was well as some of the acceptable exemptions, you can evaluate if the case against you is indeed within the realms of the Fourth Amendment.
Search Warrant Requirements in Minnesota
- The search warrant can be issued by any court in the jurisdiction of where the person or property is to be searched. The only exception is that probate court cannot issue a warrant for searches.
- A search warrant can be granted if any of the following were true: The property or items in question were stolen or embezzled, the property or items were used in the process of committing a crime, the possession of the property or items constitutes as a crime, or the property or items were delivered in the act of concealing a crime or preventing them from being discovered.
- A valid search warrant can only be issued by the court of probable cause. This needs to be supported by an affidavit that names or describes the person, property, or object to be seized and detail needs to be given when describing the place that can be searched.
- If the court is satisfied with the facts given by the affidavit that probable cause exists, the judge must sign the warrant, naming their judicial office, and then hand it over to an officer that can be inside or outside of the jurisdiction. The warrant will also sport the names of those presenting the affidavit and the grounds for its issuance.
- The execution of a search warrant can only be done by one or more of the officers mentioned in the warrants directions and by no other person except other officers requested by aid of one of the officers on the search warrant.
- In standard cases, a search warrant can only be served between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. However, warrants can be served at night, but only with court approval if the facts stated in the affidavit merit a night-time search to prevent the loss, destruction, or removal of the objects of the search.
- A search warrant is void if not served within 10 days of its issuing. However, once issued, it is easy for officers to renew it when needed.
- When the officer stated in the warrant conducts a search, they must give you a copy of the warrant and, if property or items are removed, a receipt for them to the owner as well as to the court.
When Do Officers Not Need a Warrant?
There are four major exemptions to search warrants where a valid one is not required. These include:
- Consent – If the individual freely allows a search without be coerced, the police can search a property without a warrant. They do not have to tell you that it is within your right to refuse. If two people live in the house, one cannot consent to the search of another’s personal areas, but can consent to common areas of the property. However, landlords are prohibited from giving consent, but employers can consent to searches of company property.
- Plain View – Police can search and seize anything that is illegal without it being in the warrant if it is left in plain view. A prime example is if you are pulled over for speeding, but an officer sees narcotics in the passenger seat.
- Search Incident to Arrest – If you are arrested, the officer has the right to perform a search in connection to that arrest without a warrant. This includes searching for weapons, evidence that could be destroyed, and accomplices. If you are arrested for drug possession, for example, they have the right to search your person as well as the area you were arrested without a warrant upon the time of that arrest.
- Exigent Circumstances – This is one exemption that is often played a little fast and loose. If an officer feels that waiting for a warrant would put public safety in peril or lead to the loss of evidence, they can perform a search without a warrant. This means that if an officer sees a subject trying to escape, evidence being destroyed, or hears cries for help, they can enter a house without a warrant.
Search warrants are often tricky business, but when officers try to speed things up, they make mistakes that can completely blow the case in your favor. If you are in the St. Paul area and need a skilled defense lawyer, contact us today to set up a free 30-minute consultation of your case with Alex DeMarco.