Russell Hebets May 16, 2017

What Do You Do When Police Serve You a Search Warrant?

Officers are only allowed to enter your house without your consent if they have a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable or unnecessary police searches and seizures. A search warrant allows police officers the right to enter your home and gather incriminating evidence against you. The following information will clarify what a search warrant is, and how you should react if served with one.

Defining Search Warrants

A search warrant is issued to police officers to give them the authority to search a specified location and take certain items. Law enforcement agencies are only granted a search warrant after presenting probable cause that proves the crime took place and the items associated with the crime can be found at the location indicated in the search warrant.

For a search warrant to be valid it must satisfy four conditions:

1.It has to be genuinely filed by a police authority.

2.It has to provide reliable information that shows there is a reasonable cause to perform the search.

3.It has to be approved by a neutral magistrate/judge.

4.It has to state the exact location that will be searched and the specific items that will be seized if found at that location.

The only time the police are allowed to search beyond the limits of the warrant is when they believe they are protecting their own safety or the safety of innocent parties, or they are preventing the destruction of evidence.

Steps to Take When Served with a Search Warrant

When you are served with a search warrant, you should confirm its validity before allowing the police officers entry into your home or vehicle. The three things you need to verify are the address, date, and signature on the warrant.


Does the warrant have the correct address indicated on it? There are many cases where police officers conduct a search of the wrong building and claim that they made a mistake.


A search warrant should generally be less than two weeks old. Although there is no fixed number of days that limit the validity of a warrant, they can be deemed valid as long as one would expect to locate the items mentioned in the warrant.

a.In some cases, judges have ruled that warrants are valid after one or two months.

b.Many police departments determine the number of days a police officer should wait before using a search warrant. This is often 14 days or less.


You should verify that a judge has signed the warrant. The signature proves that the judge has consented to the search and it is what makes the warrant a legally binding instrument.

Invalid Warrants

Your duty after noticing a flaw in the search warrant is to highlight this error to the police officers.

  • You can inform them that you won't grant entry because of whatever information stated on the warrant is incorrect.

  • The police officers may opt to disregard your arguments and proceed to search your house.

  • Because you did not offer consent and provided reasonable cause, a criminal defense attorney DCtrusts can argue that any evidence discovered during the search should be inadmissible.

If you have concerns about a potential search warrant being served against you, contact a criminal defense lawyer who can help protect your rights.