Obtaining a search warrant in North Carolina – Generally, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects against unlawful searches. Which means that it gives you some level of privacy regarding your personal affects, belongings, and residence. At the very general level, this means that law enforcement cannot just search through someone’s home, vehicle, or person. Of course, there are always exceptions for every rule.
One such exception is when a law enforcement officer obtains a search warrant. There are specific laws and rules regarding search warrants, and this blog we will discuss some of them. Specifically, how law enforcement officers obtain search warrants and what happens next. Like all our blogs this is intended for general informational purposes only and not as a substitute for the advice and counsel of a criminal defense lawyer.
*For a more general discussion on search warrants and warrant exceptions, click here.
Requirements for law enforcement to obtain search warrants
In North Carolina, the law regarding under what circumstances a judicial officer will issue a search warrant is found under North Carolina General Statute 15A-245. Additionally, North Carolina General statute 15A-244 details the contents necessary within the application for a search warrant, including but not limited to:
- The name and title of the applicant seeking to obtain the search warrant
- The statement that there is probable cause to believe that there are items subject to seizure (contraband, stolen items, items that have been used to commit a crime, etc.…)
- Allegations of facts supported by an affidavit establishing the probable cause alleged
Limits and rules regarding the search warrant
A search warrant is not a free pass for anyone to search whatever they want, rather there are very specific limitations including but not limited to the following:
- Time limits – The search warrant must be executed within 48 hours from the time of issuance. Any warrant not served within that time frame is considered invalid.
- Scope of the search – The warrant will have specific items that are being searched for. Law enforcement is limited to those items and search areas reasonably necessary to discover the specific items listed.
- Serving the warrant – When the law enforcement officer is serving the warrant, they must give notice to the person on the premises of who they are and why they are there.
- Search of the persons present – The law enforcement officer can only search the persons of the people present under very specific conditions enumerated under North Carolina General Statute 15A-256.
This was just a brief synopsis of some of the things involved with a law enforcement officer obtaining a search warrant. There is a lot more to it. If you have been served a search warrant or are the subject of a police investigation, you may want to hire a lawyer.