When it comes to police home or office searches in Florida, a lot of people have questions and concerns regarding the legality of the searches and what their rights are during a search. When are Palm Beach County sheriff officers allowed by law to enter and search your home or office? What are your rights when it comes to South Florida police officers and searches?
The American Civil Liberties Union provided the following information about this topic:
Question: When are the police allowed to search my home or office?
Answer: The police can search your home if they have a warrant or if they have your consent. In your absence, the police can search your home if they have the consent of your spouse, your roommate, or a guest if the police reasonably believe that that person has the authority to consent. The police can search your office only if they have a warrant or the consent of your employer. If your employer consents to a search of your office, the police can search your workspace whether you consent or not.
Question: What is a warrant and what should it say?
Answer: A warrant is a piece of paper signed by a judge giving the police permission to enter a home or other building in order to conduct a search or to make an arrest. A search warrant allows officers to enter the place described in the warrant and to then look for and take items identified in the warrant. An arrest warrant allows officers to take you into custody. An arrest warrant by itself does not give the police the right to search your home; however, they can look in places where you might be hiding and then take evidence that is in plain sight. Also, a search warrant by itself does not give the police the right to arrest you unless they find evidence of a crime and link you to it. A warrant must contain the judge’s name, your name and address, the date, the place to be searched, a description of any items being searched for, and the name of the police agency that is conducting the search or arrest. An arrest warrant that does not have your name written on it may still be used to arrest you if it describes you with enough detail to identify you, and a search warrant that does not have your name on it may still be valid if it gives the correct address and description of the place the officers will be searching. However, the fact that a piece of paper says “warrant” on it does not necessarily mean that it is an arrest or search warrant. A immigration warrant for deportation, for example, is a kind of administrative warrant which does not grant the same authority to enter a home or other building in order to conduct a search or make an arrest.
Question: What should I do if officers come to my house?
Answer: If law enforcement officers knock on your door, instead of opening the door, ask through the door if they have a warrant. If the answer is no, do not let them into your home, and do not answer any questions or say anything other than “I do not want to talk to you.” If the officers say that they do have a warrant, ask the officers to slip it under the door (or show it to you through a peephole, a window in your door, or a door that is open only enough to see the warrant). If you feel you must open the door, then step outside, close the door behind you and ask to see the warrant. Make sure the search warrant contains everything noted above, and tell the officers if they are at the wrong address or if you see some other mistake in the warrant. If you tell the officers that the warrant is incomplete or inaccurate, you should also say that you do not consent to the search, but you should not interfere if the officers decide to do the search even after you have told them they are mistaken. Stay inside your home and watch how the search is conducted if the police allow you to remain inside. Better yet, electronically record the search using your cell phone so that you can show it to your lawyer, a judge, and a jury. And call a lawyer as soon as possible.
Question: Do I have to answer questions if the officers have a search warrant or arrest warrant?
Answer: No. Neither a search warrant nor an arrest warrant requires you to answer questions.
Question: What if the police do not have a search warrant?
Answer: You do not have to let them search your home, and you do not have to answer their questions. Officers cannot get a warrant based on your refusal, nor can they punish you for refusing to give them consent to search your home.
Question: What if law enforcement officers tell me they will come back with a search warrant if I do not let them in?
Answer: Ask them to do that. They may be unsuccessful, in which case they can’t search your home (unless you foolishly allow them to search your home without a warrant).
Question: What if the officers do not have a search warrant, but they still insist on searching my home over my objection?
Answer: You should not interfere with their search in any way because you could get arrested or hurt. But you should clearly say that you have not given your consent and that the search is occurring without your permission.
If you have any questions regarding searches in your home or office and what your rights are, give me a call at 561-832-4348 or si hablas español llame 561-236-1021! You can also find more information at my criminal defense attorney's website! I am located conveniently in West Palm Beach and am available to speak with you! I will defend you rights, so give me a call today!