How Do Search Warrants Work in Utah?

Salt Lake City criminal lawyer

Search warrants serve as a constitutional guarantee against abusive and unethical police practices in conducting criminal investigations—specifically, with respect to searches and seizures. Search warrants are usually necessary when police officers need access to places where evidence related to a crime can be obtained. However, search warrants are not always required. For example, no search warrant is necessary if proof of a crime is in “plain sight”—that is, visible to the police officers—or if the suspect gives consent to the search. Search warrants have become more involved in Utah since the onset of what is known as e-warrants. Did you know that if you appear visibly intoxicated and you don’t consent to a breathalyzer test, police officers can request an e-warrant and within a short amount of time be able to obtain a blood test? Attorney Darwin Overson is here to explain how this can happen.

Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson often represents clients whose rights have been violated when a search warrant was obtained. These days, judges may get and approve the e-warrants electronically and may not even be able to review them carefully. Darwin Overson understands the different ways in which modern technology can sacrifice critical constitutional rights.

What Is a Search Warrant?

The issuance of a search warrant is considered a judicial act in that the judicial review is essential for its validity. It’s a document that carries important constitutional guarantees. A valid search warrant includes a document signed or authorized by a judge that allows the police to search a person or personal property. This warrant is usually supported by other evidence— the judge relies on this information to determine whether to deny or authorize a warrant. For example, if the police have “probable cause” or factual indications or information substantiating the believe that there is evidence of a crime in a person’s home, they submit statements or affidavits explaining the basis for the think and the judge grants the search warrant, which is the document they need to enter and search the home for those items.

Valid search warrants are usually based on tips or credible information establishing probable cause. A search warrant can be invalidated when there is proof that the police officers fabricated evidence during the investigative stages of a case.

What Constitutes Probable Cause in Utah

In a nutshell, probable cause consists of credible information related to a crime. It doesn’t have to be informed about who or when or where, but it should be comprised mostly of information that is helpful in clarifying a crime. Police officials are expected to have honest beliefs and to have received trustworthy information. This information should be incorporated, at least in a summary format, in the search warrant documents. These documents include:

  • Investigative subpoenas or requests for documents and other information related to the alleged crime.
  • Affidavits or sworn statements containing declarations about the alleged crime.

For purposes of search warrants, affidavits are documents containing sworn testimony regarding the specific person or property that will be searched. These are the most common source of information used to support a warrant. When police officers omit information or outright lie to obtain a search warrant, all the evidence found can be eliminated from being used in judicial proceedings.

The concept of probable cause is fact-based. Police officers are expected to act with “objective reasonableness” in looking at the evidence against a criminal defendant. When a police officer is biased or improperly influenced, they can lose the protection against prosecution known as “qualified immunity,” which shields police officers from liability when an honest mistake is made in pursuing the evidence.

How to Oppose an Invalid Search Warrant

Defense attorneys can file what is known as “motion” to challenge whether there was probable cause to authorize a search warrant. Schedule a consultation with criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson if a potentially invalid search warrant was used against you. All too often criminal defendants lose important rights because the search warrant is not adequately challenged.

Common Search Warrant Dilemmas

Procedures used to obtain search warrants can be filled with problems and possible illegality. While Utah courts are expected to conduct an affidavit-by-affidavit analysis to determine the validity of the information supporting a warrant, oftentimes the information provided is repetitive, confusing, incomplete, or filled with falsehoods or misrepresentations. It has been reported that officers in Utah sometimes request multiple warrants based on the same facts in each affidavit. When this happens, it can be expected for judges to become acquiescent or too trusting of the evidence. This is a huge dilemma that is rarely adequately addressed.

No one should be subject to a criminal prosecution based on false information. There are situations when clients approach the law office of Darwin Overson at a point when there are unwarranted confessions or evidence obtained on the basis on an illegal search warrant. The lack of information about search warrants and ways to challenge them can cause a criminal defendant to lose essential rights.

When affidavits and documents supporting a warrant are filled with deficiencies, an experienced criminal defense attorney can strike down the evidence, even if it proves a crime was committed. This is known in criminal defense law as “the fruit of the poisonous tree.” With this metaphor, it is understood that information or evidence stemming from a faulty search warrant is considered tainted and therefore inadmissible in a court of law. Since warrants are considered judicial acts, ensuring they are valid is an important constitutional guarantee. The recent introduction of e-warrant technology has been reported as problematic since judges are reviewing the information quickly, which could be a sign that judges aren’t carefully reading and digesting the information before approving the search warrant.

Call Utah Illegal Search Warrant Lawyer Darwin Overson

Contact Utah criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson to learn more about your rights in relation to search warrants. If you find yourself or your home being a search for no good reason, and without providing you with a search warrant, it’s very likely to be an illegal search warrant. These abuses occur more than we know. Call (801) 733-1308 to schedule a consultation.

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