Unexpected or illegal search warrants can be tremendously stressful and overwhelming. A search and seizure is a procedure by law enforcement to find any incriminating evidence. All search warrants have strict regulations by both judges and law enforcement.
Police officers must prove probable cause to obtain a search warrant. Simple “hunches” or “gut feelings” are not enough to perform a search and seizure. If your or someone you know has been subject to a search warrant, you should seek trusted legal representation immediately.
Houston Attorney for Search Warrants in Texas
For a search warrant to be considered valid, it must prove certain elements of probable cause. Search and seizures that do not uphold regulations may be deemed invalid. An experienced defense attorney can assess the circumstances of your search warrant and file motions to suppress corroborating evidence.
Brian Benken is a skilled attorney with over 30 years of experience. He understands the procedures of search warrants thoroughly. Attorney Brian Benken can evaluate any illegal proceedings in a search and seizure. Do not be hesitant if you believe that a search warrant was conducted without cause. Call Brian Benken at (713) 223 - 4051 for a free consultation today.
The Benken Law Firm defends those with crime allegations throughout all parts of Harris County and surrounding counties including Meyerland, Houston Heights, Brays Oaks, and Greenspoint.
Overview of Search Warrants in Texas
- Search Warrant Requirements
- Necessary Content for a Search Warrant
- Evidence Seized Under Search Warrants
- Exceptions to the Fourth Amendment
- Invalid Search Warrants
- Additional Resources
Requirements for a Search Warrant in Houston, Texas
A magistrate issues search warrants to law enforcement so that they search any property or device that may hold evidence of a criminal offense. For a search warrant to be admissible, law enforcement must prove probable cause.
Texas Criminal Procedure § 18.01(f) states a search warrant can only be conducted if an affidavit is given that sets forth a list of reasonable facts to establish probable cause. These facts must prove the following:
- A specific offense was committed by the alleged offender;
- A specifically described person was the victim of the crime;
- Photographic evidence of the offense or evidence that the alleged offender committed the offense; and
- That the alleged offender, who is to be searched for and photographed, is located at the particular place to be searched.
Once the warrant is issued, a police officer is obligated to present a copy of the warrant to the property owner. Additionally, an inventory must be given to the property owner that details all things that have been seized. If the property owner is not home at the time of the search, then a copy of the warrant and inventory must be left in a reasonably seen place in the residence.
Necessary Content for a Search Warrant in Harris County, Texas
For a search warrant to be valid, the actual document must contain the following:
- The search warrant must identify or name the person, place, or thing that is being searched;
- The search warrant must command the executing police officer to search the specific person, place or thing named;
- The search warrant must be dated and signed by a magistrate;
- The search warrants runs in the name of “The State of Texas;” and
- The magistrate’s name must appear in legible handwriting or typewritten forms on the search warrant document.
Evidence Found in a Search Warrant in Houston, Texas
During a search and seizure, law enforcement is required to search for criminal evidence. Texas law states that a search warrant can only search and seize the following people or property:
- Arms and/or ammunitions kept for insurrection or rioting;
- Controlled substances, chemical precursor, immediate precursor or other controlled substance-related property;
- Any stolen or illegally possessed property;
- Any kind of property made, designed, or adapted to use during an offense;
- Material that is considered obscene and is prepared for commercial exhibition or distribution;
- Any kind of electronic computer or customer data in electronic storage. This can also be information related to a wire or electronic communications;
- Any kind of contraband subject to forfeiture;
- Gambling equipment or devices which includes gambling paraphernalia
- Any evidence or instruments that were used in the commission of a crime;
- Items or property that can be constituted as evidence of a crime, or can show that a particular person committed the crime;
- Prohibited weapons;
- Persons; or
- Contraband subject to forfeiture.
Texas Penal Code § 47.01 defines a “gambling instrument” as any type of electronic, mechanical contrivance, or electromechanical device that helps a player have greater opportunity to obtain something of value. The item’s value or compensation must be made only or partially by chance.
Search Warrant Exceptions in Harris County, Texas
Not every search warrant has to follow the strict standard regulations set forth by the State. In dire times, an exception to the Fourth Amendment may be called. This especially applies if there is not enough time to obtain a warrant traditionally.
A few exceptions to the Fourth Amendment to justify a warrantless search include:
- If the evidence has a high-risk of being destroyed
- If the alleged offender is trying to flee or escape;
- To find any additional alleged offenders;
- To pursue a fleeing felon;
- For the protection of life and liberty; or
- If the alleged offender is armed.
There are other circumstances that can lead to a warrantless search that doesn’t violate the Fourth Amendment. These scenarios include:
- Stop and Frisk – If a police officer has reasonable suspicion that the alleged offender is armed and dangerous, or has committed a crime, and then the officer can legally stop and frisk that person.
- Plain View Doctrine – If any kind of contraband or evidence is in plain sight of a police officer, then the officer does not need a valid warrant to seize it.
- Consent Searches – If the alleged offender consents to a search and seizure, law enforcement does not need a warrant to search and seize.
- Searches Incident to Arrest – If the alleged offender is arrested in a lawful manner, police officers don’t need a search warrant to assess property or persons.
Invalid Search Warrants in Houston, Texas
Officers and magistrates must adhere to regulations when it comes to issuing a search warrant. If they are not upheld, then the search warrant is deemed inadmissible in court. A skilled attorney can spot oversights or illegal practices with the issuance of a search warrant. Additionally, an experienced defense lawyer can file a motion for illegal search and seizure. If successful, the motion will suppress the use of any evidence collected by the search and seizure in trial.
Some reasons why a search warrant would be considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment include:
- A lack of probable cause in the affidavit;
- The application was not made under oath;
- The probable cause was created with false statements or questionable motives of information source;
- The property that was seized was not specified in the warrant itself;
- The executing officer did not leave a copy of the warrant or inventory to the property owner.
Texas Search and Seizure Laws – Visit the official website for the Texas laws and legislation. Find more information surrounding search warrant requirements, how an affidavit was sealed, and the grounds for issuing a search warrant.
ACLU | Search and Seizure – Visit the official website for the American Civil Liberties Union and find more information about search warrants. Learn more about the Fourth Amendment, what your rights are, and tips for citizens on how to confront police in a peaceful manner.
Harris County Lawyer for Search Warrants
If you or someone you know has had their home, devices, or persons searched by law enforcement, should seek a criminal defense attorney. The search warrant used may be considered unlawful, and a skilled attorney can file motions to suppress any illegal search and seizures.
Brian Benken is an experienced defense attorney who is devoted to defending his clients. Rest assured, attorney Brian Benken will exhaust all resources to help your case. Do not hesitate when it comes to your rights and freedoms. Call attorney Brian Benken at (713) 223 - 4051, and schedule a free consultation today.
The Benken Law Firm defends those accused of crimes throughout all communities in Harris County and surrounding counties in Texas.
This article was last updated on October 12, 2018.