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Understanding more about Warrants and Police Searches

Do police always need a warrant to arrest you? When are they allowed to search your home or your car? A warrant is basically a legal document issued by a judge or grand jury and it may be in the form of an arrest warrant or a search warrant. 

An arrest warrant

An arrest warrant authorizes the police to detain you and keep you in custody. It is usually issued if there is probable cause that something illegal has happened and that you were involved. 

Arrest warrants are generally based on affidavits or sworn statements made by police officers. Probable cause can be based on observations by an officer or information provided by credible witnesses. If an arrest warrant isn’t executed correctly, it can invalidate the case against you. 

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment and if you believe your constitutional rights were violated when you were arrested, you need to find police brutality lawyers to defend you. 

A search warrant 

A search warrant authorizes police to search a specific location for specific evidence. It must describe the location and the evidence. It overrides your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and should be so clear that there is no room for a police officer to exercise discretion or make judgments. 

If any search violates the Fourth Amendment’s reasonable search and seizure requirement, a lawyer could help you with your case. USAttorneys.com is a website that allows you to search for lawyers or law firms registered on the platform. 

Improper warrants

It’s possible for a judge not to have sufficient probable cause when issuing a warrant or for police to rely on information that turns out to be false. 

If a judge makes a mistake and police officers conduct a search in good faith, it is still considered valid, and whatever turns up in the search can be admitted in evidence. However, if the police know that the warrant was issued on the basis of false affidavits, the evidence may later be excluded. 

Unreasonable force

Edward Garner, a 15-year-old, was shot in the head by police when fleeing from a house he had burglarized. He died in 1974 but a lawsuit filed against the Memphis Police Department by his father went all the way to the Supreme Court and set a standard. 

Garner knew his son had done something wrong and he would have encouraged him to accept a just verdict and jail time if so ordered. However, it seemed completely unjust to him that the penalty for burglary and making off with $10 should be immediate death. 

Deadly force can now only be used during an arrest if it is necessary to prevent escape and officers have probable cause to believe that police officers or others are in danger of serious physical injury or death from the suspect. 

The use of force spectrum

When police officers are making an arrest, they should be able to exercise a degree of coercion or force proportional to the threat. It must only escalate in response to the threat. 

In an ideal situation, officers would only use lethal weapons, such as firearms, as a last resort and follow a graded response leading up to using them, such non-threatening requests, physical bodily force and non-threatening weapons like chemical sprays. 

Unfortunately, in many cases, arrests and conducting searches still involve violations of civil rights. Victims of excessive force and police brutality are often in shock after an incident and sometimes there is no serious investigation. Recourse through the courts is the only viable option in certain cases.