In an earlier post we discussed a Pageland, South Carolina man who had allegedly amassed a collection of approximately 5,000 guns – some of which are reportedly stolen – in his home and on his private property. It is questionable whether the man’s collection would have been discovered if law enforcement had not obtained a search warrant authorizing them to search the man’s property.
There is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding when search warrants can be issued and what a law enforcement officer in possession of a search warrant is entitled to do with the warrant. This post is not intended to be an exhaustive treatise on the topic; rather, the question posed here and to be answered throughout the post is this: Did law enforcement have a right to search the man’s property without his consent?
Can Police Search Your Property? You Bet They Can!
A valid search warrant allows law enforcement officers to search a specific location for evidence of a crime. A search warrant is different in purpose than an arrest warrant (which enables law enforcement to take a particular individual into custody for criminal charges). But both search warrants and arrest warrants are similar in that they both must be supported by probable cause. Specifically, in the case of search warrants the court issuing the warrant must find that there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, that there are certain items of evidence likely to be associated with that crime, and that these certain items of evidence are likely to be found at the location that law enforcement is asking to search. “Probable cause” simply requires evidence that would cause a reasonable and prudent person to entertain a belief that the proposition sought to be proven is true.
If a search warrant is issued by a court and the search warrant is valid or reasonably appears to be valid, law enforcement officers are authorized to search the location specified in the search warrant for the items of evidence specified – even if the property owner does not provide consent or is not available to provide consent.
A Warrant is Not Always Required
Be aware that there are certain exceptions that would enable a law enforcement officer to search a location without having to obtain a search warrant. Consent is one such exception: if the property owner consents to law enforcement officers performing a search, then they may search the location without first obtaining a warrant. Another exception allows law enforcement in certain circumstances to search an automobile without first obtaining a warrant.
Experienced legal counsel can evaluate your situation and determine if law enforcement officers’ search of your property was legally justified or not. If not, legal counsel can also take the appropriate measures necessary to prevent evidence obtained during the illegal search from being used against you. The South Carolina attorneys at David R. Price, Jr., P.A., are experienced criminal defense attorneys who works aggressively to protect the rights and interests of individuals charged with violating South Carolina laws. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, contact their office today by calling (864) 271-2636.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.