Anyone who has watched any amount of television at all will recall that police usually need a warrant to search people or places and to take evidence that they have discovered. But an invalid warrant can get your case dismissed, preventing a prison sentence for a drug conviction.
Warrants to Search and Seize Property in South Carolina
In South Carolina, warrants can be issued by any judge of any court of record, or by any Magistrate (or Recorder or City Judge having the powers of a Magistrate) having jurisdiction over the area where the search will take place. For example, a Spartanburg Magistrate could issue warrants for properties sought in Spartanburg, but could not for property sought in Greenville. A warrant is a legal document allowing officials—usually police officers—to search for and seize such things as…
- Stolen or embezzled property,
- Property that is possessed unlawfully,
- Property which is being used or has been used in commission of a criminal offense, or is possessed with the intent to be used as means for committing a criminal offense, or is concealed to prevent a criminal offense from being discovered,
- Property constituting evidence of crime or intending to show that a particular person committed a criminal offense,
- Any narcotic drug, barbiturate, or restricted drugs in violation of the laws of South Carolina or of the United States.
Once a judge issues a search warrant, the property described may be seized from any place where such property may be located or from the person who has such property in his possession or under his control.
Was the Warrant a Valid One? Maybe Not!
In order for the judge to issue a warrant, he must first be provided a sworn affidavit from the law enforcement official wishing to conduct the search. The judge must be satisfied that the grounds for the request exists or that there is probable cause that they exist. The warrant will identify the property and name or describe the person or place to be searched.
If you have been charged with a crime after a search warrant was executed upon you or your property, the search warrant may later be found to be invalid. For instance, the warrant may be invalid:
- If police search outside the scope of the warrant—for example, at a place not specified in the warrant.
- If no affidavit was presented to the Magistrate.
- If the information provided to the Magistrate does not rise to the level of probable cause.
In many cases, evidence obtained through an invalid warrant can be excluded from being considered at your trial.
It is important when faced with criminal charges that one consult with an attorney who is familiar with the requirements of a legal warrant. If a warrant is found to be invalid, it’s possible that anything derived from the invalid search is excludable from trial; sometimes that removes all of the evidence the state could use against you, which would result in a dismissal or not guilty verdict.
If you face criminal charges, please do not hesitate to contact the lawyers of Holland & Usry at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 for your free, confidential consultation.