How to respond to the service of a search warrant at your home

How to respond to the service of a search warrant at your homeBy William E. Moore, Esquire

Imagine responding to a knock on the door to discover several police officers waving a paper demanding to search your home. That piece of paper is a search warrant issued by a local judge giving the police the authority to search for items listed on the warrant. If you are faced with this situation, do not resist or otherwise give the police a difficult time.  Although they are required to give you a copy of the search warrant, they are not required to delay their search until you have read the warrant.  Just because you must allow them to search those areas indicated on the warrant does not mean you are required to answer any questions.  And never volunteer any information.

For example, if the warrant says they are searching for computers and related equipment do not say, “Well this is my computer and that one belongs to my son.”  If criminal activity is confirmed by what they find in a forensic search of the hard drive, your admission to ownership or use of the computer makes you the likely suspect and the statement will be evidence against you in any prosecution.  If the police ask who owns or has access to certain items, just respond with, “I have nothing to say on advice of counsel”.  Your refusal to speak with police is not evidence of your guilt nor is it admissible evidence against you.  If the police ask for your consent to search areas beyond the authority granted in the warrant, you are not required to give consent.  Once you consent, you have eliminated their requirement to obtain probable cause to search.  If the police did not have sufficient probable cause to search(a legal concept), then you can challenge their authority at a future court hearing.  If you give valid consent , that opportunity is lost.

As soon as possible after the service of the search warrant, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to review the details of the warrant and the search. This is when criminal defense strategies can be developed.  I can be contacted to schedule a free consultation by calling our office at 215-822-7575.  Ask for William Moore, Esquire.   I can also be reached by email at [email protected]