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What Invalidates A Search Warrant’s Findings?


The recent search of former President Trump’s property at Mar Lago has tongues wagging. Did the FBI have the right to search the premises? Who approved the warrant, and was it valid? If Trump’s property can be searched and materials seized, how safe are the rest of us from searches?  It’s worthwhile to understand the law on search and seizures, as well as the factors that might render the findings of a search unusable in court.

The Affidavit 

In order to secure a warrant, an affidavit must first be filed with the court outlining the basisor probable cause– for the warrant.  There are two key problems that could mean big trouble for those seeking a warrant:

  • Making material misrepresentations in the warrant: If an officer, for example, knowingly includes false statements to establish probable cause, the very basis for the search warrant would be based on a lie. It could result in a suppression hearing if the defendant requests one, and the evidence obtained in the search could be deemed inadmissible in court.
  • Making material omissions in the warrant: By the same token, if an officer intentionally withholds information in an affidavit to establish probable cause, the same outcome could result.

Both making misrepresentations and making omissions, done with a reckless disregard for the truth, can result in rendering the fruit of the search inadmissible, based on the lack of real probable cause.

Defining Probable Cause 

Probable cause must be established prior to police receiving a warrant to search one’s person or property.  Essentially it is the reasonable belief– based on factual evidence– that there is evidence of a crime in a particular location.

The Search Warrant 

A search warrant is an order that is issued by a magistrate directing law enforcement officers to search a specific person, place, or thing, and naming the types of evidence and/or property that may be seized. It does not give unlimited reign to forage; rather, it limits the search to particular places, persons, and/or devices. A copy of the warrant and a list of materials taken must be given to the subject.

Unsealing a Warrant or Affidavit 

Getting a warrant unsealed generally requires a request from either the subject of the search or another outside party—oftentimes a news agency—in the form of a motion to unseal. Success with the motion to unseal is often relative to the specifics of the case and the opinion of the magistrate involved.

Unsealing an affidavit is much rarer while a case is ongoing, as the affidavit contains the probable cause statement and lists evidence to support that probable cause. Revealing the content of an affidavit could reveal the prosecution’s hand in a case, so judges are reluctant to make them public until after the fact.

Fighting Invalid Searches 

The 4th Amendment to the Constitution guards against unreasonable search and seizures.  When a search goes outside the bounds of the warrant, or when probable cause has been created out of thin air with duplicity, the search could be ruled invalid.  The experienced Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at Lobo Law closely examine every element of a case, including the legitimacy of the probable cause search.  If you need a vigorous defense, contact our office for a confidential consultation today.


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