We’ve talked in detail about several of our Constitutional amendments, specifically our Fourth Amendment and its protection of our right to feel safe and secure in our own home. But, if you’ve paid any attention to the recent news cycles, you know that no-knock search warrants are a controversial tactic used by police in limited scope and circumstance that absolutely interrupt our sense of security in our home. Though perceived to be a method of search rarely used, statistics show that 60,000-70,000 no-knock warrants are issued each year, and the recent death of Breonna Taylor as the result of a no-knock warrant has really brought this issue into the public arena and proposed legal reform.
This staggering statistic and tragic situation lead us to a broad and continuing discussion about warrants, how to hire a lawyer to contest the validity of an unlawfully obtained or executed search warrant, and your fourth amendment rights under search warrants, which will eventually bring us to what the no-knock search warrant is, how it works, and why it’s so controversial.
Before we dive into no-knock warrants, let’s cover the criteria needed in order to lawfully obtain and execute a search warrant in Texas and review what that ever-important Fourth Amendment guarantees us. To break down the criteria in manner you can easily recall, we can ask: Who? What? When? Where? Why?
Texas, our Texas! All hail the mighty state! First and foremost, a valid search warrant in Texas must be issued by a state magistrate in the State of Texas. Not Oklahoma. Not New Mexico. Not Louisiana. Not any other state, no matter how much they wish they were Texas. Texas is who has to issue a valid search warrant in this state.
A proper and valid search warrant in the State of Texas must include what it is the police are trying to find. Coming in and ransacking everything in sight didn’t work for King George and his broadly worded search warrants in the 1700s, and it certainly doesn’t fly here today.
We always hear that time is of the essence, and that universal phrase for prompt action is never more important than it is in regard to properly executing a search warrant. Any valid search warrant in Texas should clearly state the date and hour at which the warrant was obtained. Why is that important? The time and date a warrant was obtained is crucial because time is ticking—there’s generally a 72-hour or three-day window to conduct the search defined in a warrant. There are exceptions, though. A 15-day span is given for DNA evidence collection, and technological forensic officers have 10 days to recover data from electronic devices listed in the warrant. As a general rule, the three-day rule applies to restrict stagnant search warrants, and knowing when that warrant was signed is crucial for your defense and to ensure your Fourth Amendment rights weren’t violated.
A valid search warrant will define exactly where the police are allowed to search—that means it must state, with some specificity, the address or a reasonable description of the property permissible to search if the exact address isn’t known. A proper warrant should say with specificity exactly where it is police officers are allowed to go, and it must narrowly define that area.
We already covered that the search warrant must include the signature and name of the magistrate who issued the warrant. In addition to that information showing proof the warrant was issued by Texas, the magistrate’s name gives you the information you’ll need to request why you’re being searched. You can specifically request to know what it is the officers swore to on an affidavit that lead to a search warrant being issued.
In a neatly wrapped and memorable nutshell, you know what questions to ask and for what you should look in the event that you ever receive a supposedly valid search warrant in Texas
Of course, there is a lot more to digest in ensuring your Fourth Amendment rights are upheld, and we’ll have a deeper discussion that you don’t want to miss when we break down no-knock warrants. Continue to follow us on social media to keep up with this broadening and important conversation on warrants and why it’s imperative to have trusted counsel in the event of any issues with arrests or questionable search warrants. If you’re in that position now or fear your Fourth Amendment rights might have been violated, please reach out to us here at Peek & Toland.