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Are search warrants limited?

There is a lot of competing, conflicting information in the media about the role of search warrants in law enforcement. Each and every day, it seems that the rights of citizens roll back a little further, and law enforcement receives a little more room to violate your Fourth Amendment rights. You may wonder if search warrants even apply to the criminal justice system anymore. While your rights may be under attack in any circumstances, a search warrant is still not a blank check for law enforcement officers to do whatever they want to you or your property.

A search warrant offers police the authority to legally search a specific area for a specific list of evidence listed in the warrant. It does not grant police complete and total rights to search any area. For instance, if police obtain a search warrant for your kitchen, they should not also search your attic.

However, a search warrant may expand in some circumstances. If the police have reasons to believe that their own safety or the safety of others is at stake, or if they believe that searching areas adjacent to the warranted areas may stop the destruction of evidence, they may widen their search parameters. Generally, however, these exceptions come into play when police enter with a warrant and find some evidence that implies danger or the possibility of a greater collection of evidence. It is unlikely to stand if police enter with a warrant and do not find anything incriminating.

The Fourth Amendment contains some of our most precious rights. If you believe that your constitutional rights have been violated, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced attorney to keep your rights and privileges secure.

Source: FindLaw, "Illegal Search and Seizure FAQs," accessed June 16, 2017

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