Search Warrant Requirements in Connecticut

Police officers knocking on a door visual concept for a legal blog discussing search warrant requirements.

The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution protects people against unreasonable search and seizure by the government. This means the police must have a legally justifiable reason before they can search your person, your home, or your car. In most circumstances, police must obtain a warrant before they can conduct a search. While there are limited circumstances in which a search without a warrant is allowed, warrantless searches are generally considered unreasonable and a violation of your civil rights. It is important to understand the search warrant requirements in Connecticut to protect your rights.

If you were charged with a crime based on evidence obtained through an illegal search, a criminal defense lawyer can work to have that evidence excluded from your criminal case. Excluding incriminating evidence does not necessarily mean the case against you will be dismissed, but it will make it more difficult for the prosecuting attorney to secure a conviction and could lead to a significant reduction in the severity of the charges or the penalties you could face.

Stephen Lebedevitch is a Connecticut criminal defense lawyer with over a decade of experience defending people accused of crimes in Fairfield and New Haven Counties. To put his expertise to work for you, contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm, LLC today.

How Do Police Obtain a Search Warrant?

A search warrant is a court order that allows police officers or other law enforcement agents to search a specific location for specific evidence that can be used to charge you with and convict you of a crime.

Police can obtain a search warrant by convincing a judge they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime. Police officers typically establish probable cause by submitting affidavits describing their observations and why they believe you committed a criminal act. If the judge believes the police have probable cause, the court will issue a warrant authorizing the police to search a specific location for the items identified in the warrant.

When Is a Search Warrant Invalid?

The legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant are strict, and a criminal defendant can challenge whether the warrant was valid and whether it should have been issued in the first place. If the police failed to follow the legal requirements for obtaining a search warrant, the search should be declared invalid, and evidence obtained in the search should not be considered in the case against you.

A search warrant could be invalid if:

  • Information contained in the affidavit is incomplete;
  • The search warrant was issued based on illegally obtained evidence;
  • The police waited too long to request a search warrant and the evidence is “stale;” or
  • The source of information supporting the search warrant is unreliable.

By challenging whether a search was legal, your criminal defense lawyer could succeed in having incriminating evidence excluded from trial, which could make it more difficult for the prosecutor to secure a conviction. This can pave the way for a plea bargain to reduced charges, reduced penalties, or dismissal of the case against you.

You should discuss with your criminal defense lawyer the circumstances that led to your arrest and any searches the police conducted. Your lawyer may identify information that could be used to challenge the validity of the search and lead to the exclusion of evidence that could otherwise be used to prove you guilty.

When Is a Search Warrant NOT Required?

Despite Fourth Amendment protections, there are important exceptions to the requirement that police obtain a search warrant. In the following circumstances, police do not need a warrant to execute a search.

  • Consent. Police do not need a warrant if the suspect consented to the search.
  • Plain View. No warrant is required when evidence of criminal activity is in “plain view.” Plain view means the police officer can see evidence of criminal activity without conducting a search. Suppose a police officer sees drugs on the passenger seat of your car during a routine traffic stop. In this case, no warrant is required because evidence of illegal activity is in plain view.
  • Search Incident to Arrest. Police do not need a warrant to search the area in the suspect’s immediate control when placing someone under arrest. This exception to the warrant requirement is intended to protect officer safety by allowing the officer to identify potential threats by conducting a “protective sweep.”
  • Stop and Frisk. Police do not need a warrant to stop and frisk someone they believe is unlawfully carrying a firearm. Evidence obtained during a stop and frisk, also known as a Terry stop, is admissible even though the officer did not have a search warrant.
  • Exigent Circumstances. Police do not need a warrant to conduct a search if the time needed to obtain a warrant would lead to the destruction of evidence or jeopardize public safety. Classic examples of exigent circumstances include a suspect who would flush drugs down the toilet, when a person is in danger, or if the police are in “hot pursuit” of a suspect.
  • No Fourth Amendment Protection. The Fourth Amendment does not apply to private citizens, like security guards. A private citizen who searches a place where a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy may be violating other laws, but they have not violated the Fourth Amendment because it only applies to government agents like the police, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies.

Understanding Search Warrants and the Exclusionary Rule

If the police conducted an illegal search, your criminal defense lawyer can file a Motion to Suppress Evidence seeking to have illegally obtained evidence excluded from your case. If your Motion to Suppress Evidence is granted, the excluded evidence cannot be considered. This does not always mean your case will be dismissed, but it will make it more difficult for the prosecutor to secure a conviction and can pave the way for a plea bargain to reduced charges or reduced penalties.

Contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm for Aggressive Criminal Defense

Carefully analyzing and challenging the validity of a search warrant is a crucial element of a successful criminal defense strategy. Criminal defense attorney Stephen Lebedevitcvh has extensive experience defending people accused of crimes, and can use that experience to mount a vigorous defense in your case. He will carefully review the circumstances of your arrest and any search warrants that were issued. When appropriate, he will challenge the validity of the search warrant as part of his efforts to obtain an optimal result in your case.

To learn more about the search warrant requirements in Connecticut, contact The Lebedevitch Law Firm today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Categories: Criminal Defense