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What is Allowable to Search Under a Search Warrant

Posted by Dan Cogdell | Dec 28, 2015 | 0 Comments

Search warrants are judicial orders that authorize law enforcement officers to conduct a search at a specific place for specific objects or materials that they suspect are tied to a crime. Law enforcement must provide a judge with probable cause to issue a search warrant, and cannot conduct ancillary searches of other property not detailed in the search warrant.

For example, if the warrant says the search shall be conducted in the home of a suspect, the police cannot search in the backyard or another building on the property. If the warrant limits the search to weapons, officers cannot search for drug paraphernalia. However, if the police do find any evidence of a crime that is not detailed in the warrant, they may seize it.

If the warrant directs the search of a certain individual, only that person may be searched unless officers have independent probable cause to search others who may be at the location. A reasonable suspicion that someone on the premises may have a weapon can also lead an officer to conduct a frisk for weapons, but the officer cannot perform a full search.

There are certain circumstances where a search warrant is not required, including:

  • If an individual consents to a search of their person or property;
  • If evidence of a criminal activity is in plain view of the officer;
  • If the search is being conducted in connection with an arrest;
  • In an emergency situation, where the time it takes to get a warrant could jeopardize public safety or lead to the loss of important evidence;
  • If an officer encounters a suspect he or she believes is armed and dangerous, the officer may stop and frisk that individual for weapons.

Police are also allowed to make “protective sweeps” of property following the arrest of a suspect if they believe that someone else is hiding in the area that could be a danger to themselves or others.

Whether you are facing a serious federal white-collar prosecution, a state murder charge, or misdemeanor charges, The Cogdell Law Firm has the experience, knowledge and reputation you want for your legal team. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or [email protected]

About the Author

Dan Cogdell

Principal & Founder Principal and founding attorney at Cogdell Law Firm, Dan Cogdell, is often referred to by his contemporaries as a “Texas trial legend.” He has been practicing criminal defense law for 36 years, during which time he has handled some of the most complex and high-profile cases i...


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