The right of people “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” is enshrined in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Despite these legal protections, law enforcement may be authorized to search a person, location, or vehicle for evidence of a crime when a police officer has a valid search warrant, or there is a recognized exception to the requirement of a warrant.
A search warrant is a court order. A valid search warrant must name the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. While a person who is the subject of a search warrant may be understandably confused and frightened when confronted by law enforcement, it is important to understand that all evidence seized during a lawful search may be suppressed if the search warrant was improperly issued.
Lawyer for Search Warrants in Tallahassee, FL
Was your home, business, or motor vehicle recently the subject of a warranted search in North Florida? You should exercise your right to remain silent until you can contact Pumphrey Law.
Don Pumphrey and the Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law defend clients in communities all over the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region, such as Quincy, Tallahassee, Bristol, Crawfordville, Monticello, and many others.
You can have our lawyers review your case and help you understand all of your legal options when you call (850) 681-7777 to take advantage of a free, confidential consultation.
Overview of Search Warrants in Leon County
- When can search warrants be issued?
- How do search warrants get executed?
- Are there any situations in which law enforcement does not need a search warrant?
- Where can I learn more about search warrants in Tallahassee?
Article I, Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Florida states, "No warrant shall be issued except upon probable cause, supported by affidavit, particularly describing the place or places to be searched, the person or persons, thing or things to be seized, the communication to be intercepted, and the nature of evidence to be obtained."
Under Florida Statute § 933.01, a search warrant authorized by law can be issued by any judge, including the committing judge of the trial court having jurisdiction where the place, vehicle, or thing to be searched may be. Florida Statute § 933.04 establishes that no search warrant will be issued except upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation particularly describing the place to be searched and the person and thing to be seized.
Upon proper affidavits being made, Florida Statute § 933.02 provides that a search warrant can be issued upon any of the following grounds:
- When any property has been stolen or embezzled in violation of law;
- When any property has been used as a means to commit any crime; in connection with gambling, gambling implements and appliances; or in violation of Florida Statute § 847.011 or other laws in reference to obscene prints and literature;
- When any property constitutes evidence relevant to proving that a felony has been committed;
- When any property is being held or possessed in violation of any of the laws prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors; in violation of the fish and game laws; in violation of the laws relative to food and drug; or in violation of the laws relative to citrus disease pursuant to Florida Statute § 581.184; or
- When the laws in relation to cruelty to animals, as provided in Chapter 828 of the Florida Statutes, have been violated in any particular building or place.
Additionally, Florida Statute § 933.18 states that a warrant will not be issued to search any private dwelling occupied as such unless:
- It is being used for the unlawful sale, possession, or manufacture of intoxicating liquor;
- It contains stolen or embezzled property therein;
- It is being used to carry on gambling;
- It is being used to perpetrate frauds and swindles;
- It is being used or the law relating to narcotics or drug abuse is being violated therein;
- A weapon, instrumentality, or means by which a felony has been committed, or evidence relevant to proving said felony has been committed, is contained therein;
- One or more of the following child abuse offenses is being committed there: Interference with custody; Commission of an unnatural and lascivious act with a child; or Exposure of sexual organs to a child;
- It is in part used for some business purpose such as a store, shop, saloon, restaurant, hotel, boardinghouse, or lodginghouse;
- It is being used for the unlawful sale, possession, or purchase of wildlife, saltwater products, or freshwater fish being unlawfully kept therein;
- The laws in relation to cruelty to animals, as provided in Chapter 828 of the Florida Statutes, have been or are being violated therein; or
- An instrumentality or means by which sexual cyberharassment has been committed in violation of Florida Statute § 784.049, or evidence relevant to proving that sexual cyberharassment has been committed in violation of Florida Statute § 784.049, is contained therein.
Florida Statute § 933.08 establishes that search warrants must be served by any of the officers mentioned in their direction, but by no other person except in aid of the officer requiring it so long as said officer is present and acting in its execution.
Florida Statute § 933.09 authorizes law enforcement to break open any outer doors, inner doors, or windows of houses, or any parts of houses or anything therein, to execute warrants, provided that after due notice of an officer’s authority and purpose he or she was refused admittance to said house or access to anything therein.
When expressly authorized, search warrants may be served day or night and on Sundays. Under Florida Statute § 933.11, all search warrants must be issued in duplicate, with the duplicate being delivered to the officer with the original warrant. When the officer serves the warrant, he or she must deliver a copy to the person named in the warrant, or in his or her absence to some person in charge of, or living on the premises.
When property is taken under a warrant, the police officer must deliver to the person named in the warrant a written inventory of the property taken and receipt for the same, specifying the same in detail. If no person is found in possession of the premises where such property is found, the officer will leave the said receipt on the premises.
Florida Statute § 933.15 also establishes that an alleged offender commits a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if he or she knowingly and willfully obstructs, resists, or opposes any officer or person aiding such officer, in serving or attempting to serve or execute any search warrant, or assaults, beats, or wounds any person or officer, or his or her deputies or assistants, knowing him or her to be such an officer or person so authorized.
In certain cases, a police officer may not be required to obtain a search warrant to search a person or a person’s property. The U.S. Supreme Court has outlined some circumstances where a law enforcement officer may execute a search without a warrant.
Examples of such circumstances include, but are not limited to:
- To prevent destruction of evidence;
- “Hot pursuit” of an offender;
- Protection of life and property;
- To prevent the escape of an offender;
- When police officers witness a crime being committed;
- Inventory searches; or
- Searches incident to arrests.
Invalid Searches in Leon County
When a search is executed under an invalid or improperly issued warrant, the resulting evidence may be suppressed. Additionally, if a police officer executes a search without a valid exception to the warrant requirement, then the fruits of such search may be also be suppressed. Some of the reasons that a search warrant may be improperly issued include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of probable cause;
- Application not made under oath;
- Property searched or seized not specified in warrant;
- False statements or questionable motives from informant; or
- Procedural errors.
Search and Seizure | American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — The ALCU identifies itself as "our nation's guardian of liberty" and works in the courts, legislatures, and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in the country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Learn more about Fourth Amendment issues on this section of the ACLU website. You can also find press releases, blogs, videos, court cases, and various reports.
Your 4th Amendment Rights | Judicial Learning Center — The Judicial Learning Center, Inc. is an independent not-for-profit corporation founded by leaders of the legal community with the mission to "promote public understanding of the function and value of the judicial branch of government." On this section of its website, you can learn more about your rights under the Fourth Amendment. The website also contains several different case studies relating to Fourth Amendment rights.
Pumphrey Law | Tallahassee Search Warrants Defense Attorney
If you were arrested or your home, business, or vehicle was the subject of a police search in North Florida, you will want to immediately retain legal counsel. Pumphrey Law represents individuals in Wakulla County, Leon County, Gadsden County, Jefferson County, and Liberty County.
Don Pumphrey and the criminal defense lawyers in Tallahassee at Pumphrey Law can review whether your search was unlawfully conducted and possibly file motions to have certain all evidence against you suppressed.
Call (850) 681-7777 or fill out an online contact form to have our attorneys provide a complete evaluation of your case during a free initial consultation.
This article was last updated on Friday, September 15, 2017.
Attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney.