When a police officer appears at the door and states that he or she has a search warrant, most people assume that the warrant is valid and allow the police to enter. However, you always should take the time to examine the warrant carefully.
There are many different ways that a search warrant can be legally invalid in the state of Texas. If you believe that the warrant is invalid, you should state why you think the warrant is invalid and advise the police that you do not consent for them to search your property. Although the police are likely to search your property anyway, you may be able to exclude some forms of evidence if you are later charged with a crime and if the warrant ultimately proves to be invalid.
Search Warrant Requirements
The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure defines a search warrant as a written order, signed by a magistrate, which directs a peace officer to search and/or seize any property specified in the warrant. No warrant shall be issued unless accompanied by a sworn affidavit of probable cause, which is deemed sufficient by the judge or magistrate. This affidavit must contain very specific information. If all of the listed information is not contained within the affidavit, the warrant potentially could be challenged as insufficient or lacking probable cause. These requirements include the following:
- A description of the place to be searched;
- A description of the thing and/or person to be seized; and
- Facts and circumstances sufficient to establish a probability that the requested search will lead to the seizure of the items and/or person described in the warrant.
Additionally, if the warrant is a combined search and arrest warrant, it must cite the relevant Texas Penal Code section that sets forth the criminal offense with which the person is charged. Plus, any affidavit of probable cause must be specifically tailored to fit the type of search warrant being requested.
Lack of Authorizing Signature
While this may be a rare occurrence, police sometimes attempt to search a home or business based on a warrant that has not been signed by a judge or magistrate. The lack of such a signature, which indicates the judicial officer’s authorization of the warrant as legally valid, can render the warrant void. This is a clear basis for challenging a search and/or seizure of property.
There is no clear rule about how long warrants remain valid. However, if a search warrant is more than 10 days old, it may be invalid as a matter of law. In any case, this is a valid basis for challenging the results of a search based on an invalid warrant.
Wrong Street Address
This is one of the most common errors on search warrants that render them invalid. This type of mistake can lead police to search the wrong house altogether. Plus, if the address is deficient in that it lacks an apartment number, hotel room number, or building number, you may be able to challenge the warrant as invalid.
Let Your Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Assist You
Our seasoned Houston criminal defense attorneys know how to build the strongest defense on your behalf possible, no matter what type of criminal offense you are facing. We know how to protect your rights under state and federal law, and ensure that law enforcement authorities respect those rights, as well. Contact the Houston criminal defense attorneys Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today, and let us show you how we can represent your interests.