In the eyes of the law, our homes are our castles, the places where we are entitled to enjoy peace without unwanted interruptions. However, this can all change in a second if police officers knock at your door and ask to come inside. They may have a warrant to have your premises searched or to have you arrested. This can place an individual under a significant amount of stress and fear. In moments like this, you may wonder if you can ask officers to see their search warrant to determine whether they have the right to be inside your property. The Atlantic City illegal search and seizure attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych invite you to keep reading as we discuss whether you can ask to see a police officer’s search warrant in New Jersey.
Understanding Search Warrants
Police officers have the primary responsibility of taking care of all citizens and preserving law and order. Part of this responsibility requires performing searches, seizures, and arrests, then charging those who have committed a crime. However, there are limitations to the power that officers have to discharge their duties. This is where a warrant comes into play.
A warrant is a legal document issued by a judge that grants law enforcement the right to enter private property, seize any illegal objects or evidence, and perform an arrest. This judge-issued order must meet specific requirements. A search warrant must contain specific language related to the place, objects to be seized, and people to be arrested.
For instance, an officer cannot ask a judge for a warrant to search a two-story apartment located in one neighborhood for marijuana if, in reality, they are going to a family home in a different area of town to search for weapons. In other words, a valid warrant must describe its purpose with sufficient specificity as to render the search, seizure, or arrest legal. If an officer does not follow this simple yet critical rule, they would be breaking the law and ultimately violating your constitutional rights.
Can I Ask an Officer to See Their Search Warrant in NJ?
Now that you have a clearer idea of what a search warrant is, you may wonder what your rights are once police officers show up at your door. A police officer must follow a mandatory rule known as “knock and announce.” As the name implies, police officers must knock on your door and announce their presence. This is done to give the person inside an opportunity to open their door. This is the moment when police officers generally present the warrant. At this time, you, as the occupant of the residence, have the right to ask for a copy of the order to confirm its legality. This is a critical step since it will affect the outcome of the search, seizure, or arrest.
There are, however, situations where police officers may not need to ask you to open the door and enter your property. For instance, an officer can knock down your door if they are pursuing a suspect who seeks refuge inside your property. In such a situation, it would be impossible for an officer to ask a judge for a warrant. In this case, an officer has to weigh the risk of an individual escaping or causing harm to another person and the need for an order. In this scenario, the impending danger and the need for an arrest would outweigh the need for a warrant.
Another scenario where police officers may not need to show a warrant to enter your property is in a situation where they show up, ask to come inside, and are given permission to enter. By doing this, the occupant waives the protections granted by the U.S Constitution. At this point, officers can look around as much as they want, seize illegal objects or substances, and perform an arrest.
Police officers can also enter private property when the safety of a person is at stake. For instance, if officers hear a person screaming for help, they can enter the property to stop crimes such as assaults, aggravated assaults, sexual assaults, and other felonies.
The different scenarios we have discussed represent exceptional situations where police officers can enter private property without a warrant. These “exigent circumstances” surpass the constitutional principles that protect you against unreasonable searches and seizures. A skilled, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights and defend you against unreasonable searches and seizures.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was a victim of unreasonable searches and seizures, our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers can help. Thanks to our many years of experience, we are able to fiercely and strategically defend your constitutional rights. Don’t let the illegal actions of law enforcement determine the path your life takes. To speak to a professional about your specific case or schedule a free, confidential legal consultation, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.