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Is It Possible to Have a Search Warrant Invalidated in a California Criminal Case?

September 6, 2019

A Franks motion allows you to challenge the basis for a search warrant

Is It Possible to Have a Search Warrant Invalidated in a California Criminal Case?

Under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, each of us have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Generally, this means that — with some exceptions — the government needs a search warrant to search our homes, vehicles, or other property, to seize our items, or to effect other “seizures” (such as arrests or stopping us for a prolonged period of time). There is a specific process that law enforcement officers must follow in order to obtain a search warrant, which is issued by a magistrate. But what happens when you learn that the search warrant was based on false or misleading information?

According to a criminal attorney Riverside, CA, there are ways to invalidate search warrants (referred to a “traversing” a warrant) as a way to challenge the validity of the information that was provided to the magistrate. This is done through a Franks Motion, which is a legal document where your lawyer argues that the police officer who wrote the affidavit (a sworn statement of facts) provided false information. If you can prove that the information was false, then the evidence found as a result of the search warrant may be suppressed (thrown out).

When a law enforcement officer is applying for a search warrant, he or she submits an application. This application includes an affidavit, which is signed under penalty of perjury. The affidavit states the person to be searched, describes with particularity the property and/or things to be searched for, and specifically describes the place to be searched. The affidavit and/or the officer’s testimony also provides the basis for the probable cause that justifies the issuance of a warrant.

For example, consider a case where the police see a vehicle parked along the side of a highway. They stop and talk to the driver, who has an odor of marijuana on his clothes. They suspect that the driver may have a large quantity of marijuana in the car based on a particularly strong smell of marijuana coming from the vehicle, but the driver refuses to give consent to a search of his vehicle. The officers then detain the man, tow his car, and apply for a search warrant. They describe the circumstances of the stop and what they observed. On that basis, the magistrate issues a search warrant, and the officers are able to search his car, where they find a large quantity of marijuana and charge him with possession with intent to sell.

In this case, a skilled criminal attorney Riverside, CA may be able to challenge the search warrant in a Franks Motion. The officers may have left out material information, such as that the man informed them that he had marijuana in his car for his personal use, and that would explain the odor. The officers may also have falsely described the driver as appearing intoxicated, when the evidence showed that he appeared to be sober and was not arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. Depending on the facts of the case, a lawyer may be able to make a case that the search warrant should be traversed, the evidence thrown out, and the charges dismissed as a result.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in California, you will need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to represent you. The Chambers Law Firm understands California criminal law and how to apply it to our clients’ individual situations. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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