Louisiana residents have seen enough procedural dramas on television to know that police officers need a warrant before entering their house. Unfortunately, though, they don’t know more than that-they may not be aware that the warrant specifies which areas may be searched and which people can be searched and only the sought after evidence may be searched for. That means that police officers can only search places where they may reasonably find the evidence-officers searching for a rifle may not look inside a jewelery box.
Understanding the limitations of a search warrant is very important, as an improperly conducted search may be cause for challenging the subsequent arrest and drug charges.
Firstly, a competent authority, such as a judge or magistrate, must issue the warrant. While executing the warrant, police may not force their way into the premises-they must first knock and announce their intent and their identity and then wait a reasonable amount of time for someone to open the door. They can only break this rule when there is a reason to do so. This often happens in drug offense cases. In addition to this, police are only allowed to conduct searches at night in exceptional circumstances; this is also most common in drug cases.
Evidence that has been obtained through an illegal search may not be used during trial and cannot be used by police to obtain further evidence. Therefore, it is important to examine the warrant and ensure that it was complied with. Failure to do so may be one of the ways to challenge the drug charges that follow.