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Common Errors Made by Law Enforcement When Applying for and Executing Search Warrants

There are several common errors that can occur in search warrants, including:

  1. Lack of probable cause: The most significant error in a search warrant is when it lacks probable cause. Probable cause means that there must be sufficient evidence to support a belief that a crime has been committed, and the evidence sought will be found at the place to be searched. If there is no probable cause, the search warrant may be invalid.

  2. Incorrect information: If the information provided in the search warrant application is incorrect, such as the wrong address or suspect’s name, the warrant may be invalid. Even a small mistake can invalidate the entire warrant, and any evidence found as a result of the search may be inadmissible in court.

  3. Overbroad scope: The search warrant must be specific and narrowly tailored to the suspected criminal activity. If the warrant is too broad, it may allow for an unreasonable search or seizure, which would make the warrant invalid.

  4. Lack of judicial authorization: A search warrant must be authorized by a judge or magistrate. If the warrant is not signed by a judge or magistrate, it is invalid.

  5. Staleness: The information provided in the search warrant application must be current and based on recent observations or reliable information. If the information is stale, meaning it is no longer relevant or current, the search warrant may be invalid.

  1. Lack of good faith: If the law enforcement officials who obtained the search warrant acted in bad faith or with reckless disregard for the truth, the warrant may be invalid. For example, if the officers knowingly provide false information or omit important facts from the warrant application, this could be considered bad faith.

  2. Lack of notice: In some cases, a search warrant may require notice to be given to the person whose property is being searched. If proper notice is not given, the warrant may be invalid.

  3. Lack of specificity in the authorization: If the search warrant is authorized by someone who is not authorized to issue search warrants, or the warrant does not specify the particular law enforcement officer who is authorized to execute the search, the warrant may be invalid.

  4. Exceeding the scope of the warrant: Even if a warrant is valid, law enforcement officials must not exceed its scope when executing the search. If they conduct a search beyond the limits of the warrant, any evidence obtained may be suppressed.

  5. Violation of the warrant’s terms: If law enforcement officials exceed the scope of the warrant when conducting the search, any evidence obtained beyond the warrant’s terms may be suppressed.


Even though some of these mistakes may appear minor or un-important, they may have a huge impact on a case and ultimately effect the verdict. Many times key evidence is found from these search warrants. Lets say a judge forgets to sign the search warrant, well then their is a good chance that evidence, you know the caught red-handed evidence, is no longer usable. This is why consent with conjunction of a search warrant is always best as if one fails, then law enforcement can fall back on the other option.

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By Branden

Branden is a Police Lieutenant who has investigated numerous crimes. He has written and executed multiple search warrants, conducted various protective sweeps, pat frisks and exit orders. He has been involved in numerous police vehicle chases, fights, disturbances, foot pursuits, suspect/hostage negotiations and felony stops. He is trained with an assortment of weapons. He has spoken with countless victims, witnesses and suspects and is using his experience to better protect our communities and loved ones by sharing his knowledge through his writings.

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