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Understanding Search Warrants in New Jersey

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If you feel you have been subjected to an improper search of your property, the lawyers at Villani & DeLuca are here to help protect your rights. The 4th Amendment to the Constitution protects individuals like you from unreasonable searches of your property by law enforcement. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey possess the experience and knowledge needed to handle the search and seizure of your property.

Procurement of a Search Warrant in NJ

In order to search your property, the police first must obtain a search warrant. Law enforcement officers must follow the strict guidelines in conjunction with how a warrant is obtained and how the search is conducted or the search may be deemed illegal. In order to obtain a search warrant, the following must occur:

  • The law enforcement officer must appear before a judge and must present facts that establishes sufficient grounds for a search;
  • Grounds for a search exists where there is probable cause to believe that property exists which has been obtained illegally, property that is intended for use in connection with illegal activity, or property constituting evidence of any illegal activity.
  • The judge will then determine whether there are sufficient grounds to grants the search warrant. If the judge deems the search is valid, he or she will then sign an order identifying the specific persons and places to be searched and property to be seized, and identifying the specific times when the search may be executed.

Proper Execution of a Search Warrant

There are a series of steps that law enforcement offers must follow when executing a search warrant:

  • Police must knock and announce their presence prior to entering the premises, unless they have procured a “no knock” warrant with sufficient grounds to do so;
  • Police may then enter the premises and locate the appropriate individuals according to the search warrant;
  • Then the police should advise those individuals of the specifics of the search warrant and provide them with a copy of same;
  • Miranda warnings should be read to these individuals before any questioning occurs;
  • The police may then proceed with any search provided for in the warrant; and
  • An inventory of any and all evidence taken during the search must be prepared by the officers.

Illegal Searches

If any of the above steps are not adhered to, the search and any evidence found therein may be deemed illegal. Don't assume that simply because a search was conducted by a law enforcement officer that it was performed properly. If a search is deemed improper, any evidence of that search may be deemed unlawful and cannot be used as evidence in a criminal trial. Illegal searches include:

  • Improper car searches of any enclosed area or trunk of an automobile without a warrant, even with consent, unless the police have sufficient evidence to make such a demand.
  • A warrantless house search, unless it meets the requirements of an exception to the requirement that police possess a search warrant as described below; and
  • An intrusive search of a person's body, pockets, purse, or wallet without a warrant.

Warrantless Searches Under New Jersey Law

If any evidence is seized by police following a warrantless search, the state must prove that the warrant requirement does not apply. Warrants are not needed in the following situations:

  • Where evidence is found in an area where no privacy protection exists;
  • Where evidence is found in “plain view”;
  • Where evidence is seized by a lay person (not a police officer or law enforcement agent); or
  • In one of the exceptions as described below.

There are several exceptions to the need to obtain a search warrant. The state must prove that an exception applies to the search in order for the warrantless search to be considered legal. The exceptions include:

  • A search performed during or immediately after a lawful arrest;
  • A search wherein the individual consents to the search;
  • A “patdown”;
  • A search performed in unusual or urgent circumstances (emergency exception); or
  • A regulatory search.

Defending Search Cases

If you find yourself in a situation where you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense following a search of property, contact an experienced attorney to fight your case. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca possess the knowledge and experience needed to properly defend a case involving the search and seizure of property. They can help you in any of the New Jersey coastal communities – from Red Bank to Toms River.  Call today!

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Villani & DeLuca, P.C. is committed to answering your questions about Divorce & Family Law, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, and DWI & Traffic Law issues in New Jersey. We offer a Free Consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.