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Understanding Search Warrants in Illinois

Posted on in Criminal Defense

police search warrant in Illinois, Elgin criminal defense lawyerThe U.S. Constitution provides people with a variety of rights and protections with relation to law enforcement and the criminal justice system. One of the most important of these rights is the protection from unlawful searches provided by the Fourth Amendment. Usually, what separates a lawful search from an unlawful one is whether the police had a warrant to perform the search. Whether a search is performed with a valid warrant can make all the difference in the outcome of a criminal case because of a legal doctrine known as the "exclusionary rule."

The exclusionary rule is a rule of evidence that governs whether the prosecutor is allowed to use evidence during a trial. Its name comes from the fact that it excludes any evidence that was recovered during an unlawful search. It also excludes from the trial any evidence that the police found because of evidence they uncovered during an illegal search. This rule is designed to discourage police from performing these sorts of searches because anything they discover will be useless to the prosecution at trial.

The Warrant Process

The warrant process is important because if it is not followed correctly then it can trigger the exclusionary rule. Warrants are legal documents issued by judges that give the police permission to search. This means that the police officers must speak to the judge and present that judge with evidence they already have about the crime. Their goal in doing this is to convince the judge that they have probable cause to believe that the search they want to perform will result in their finding the evidence of a crime. If they convince the judge of this, then the judge will issue a warrant. This warrant will give the police the right to perform a specific search, usually only looking for specific items at a specific location.

Reasons Warrants May Be Invalidated

Warrants can be invalidated through a variety of different issues, usually either because of problems with the process of how it was issued or of how the search was performed. Common issues with the process relate to the type of information that the police were giving the judge. For instance, if the police provide the judge with old information, then the warrant might be invalid since it would not relate to the likelihood that the search would actually turn up evidence of a crime. Conversely, an issue of execution would be exceeding the scope of the search warrant. If the police have a warrant to search for a large item, like a stolen flat screen TV, then opening drawers and finding drugs would exceed the warrant's scope.

If you have been charged with a crime after what you believe was an unlawful search, contact a Kane County criminal defense attorney today to learn more about your rights.

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