Aggressively Protecting Your Rights

Overbroad search warrant could support a defense

| Aug 28, 2017 | Felony Charges

Most people know and understand that the police need a warrant to conduct searches of their private property, but when do the police overstep the bounds of the Fourth Amendment even when they have a warrant? This is an important question given that scores of criminal cases arise when law enforcement discover illegal contraband or weapons that are not identified within the warrant.

The story of a Washington, D.C. man convicted of illegal possession of a weapon exemplifies this question. Police obtained a warrant to search his home and seize any a cell phones available as they suspected that he played a part in a 2011 murder. Upon executing the warrant, police found a gun that was thrown out of a window. Based on this, the man, who had a previous felony conviction was arrested and charged with possessing a firearm. A jury subsequently convicted him of the crime. 

The man’s legal counsel challenged the conviction, arguing that the warrant was overbroad based on the assumption that he would actually own a cell phone, and that this possibility was not enough to justify a search of his home. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed, and invalidated the warrant as well as all evidence stemming from it. As such, the conviction was overturned.

If you have been charged with a crime where law enforcement may have conducted an illegal search, an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential in mounting a defense based on challenging a warrant.

The preceding is not legal advice and is given for informational purposes only.