When the Founding Fathers drafted the Bill of Rights they included the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. This limitation, as with all limitations in the U.S. Constitution, is directed toward government. In other words, the Constitution limits the authority of government and government’s employees, including police officers.
The Founding Fathers believed that a citizen’s home is his castle, and his property is his kingdom. They believed that the reach of government should end at the boundaries of a citizen’s property. The only exception accepted by the Founders was that private property could be searched when the government already had evidence that a crime had likely occurred, or was currently occurring on the property. This is where the “unreasonable” language came from. Before the government is allowed to breach a citizen’s boundary the government must have evidence that would convince a reasonable person that a specific crime had occurred. Even then, the Founders limited the government to searching for specific items in specific locations on the private property.
Well, that is how it was supposed to be. Since adoption of the Bill of Rights, government courts have interpreted the Constitution in ways that gradually expanded government authority and minimized citizen’s rights. The right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure is an excellent example.
Today search warrants are issued for entire properties and allow government agents to seize fairly anything. While a warrant will often specify a particular crime, it will usually allow seizure of anything that might be related to the crime. In practice this equates to anything on the premises that could remotely relate to the crime.
While search warrants are often challenged in court, it is extremely rare to have the scope of a warrant challenged. This is because attorneys, courts, and law enforcement have all come to accept that once a warrant is obtained, it essentially has no limit as to specificity. As long as the police stay on one property, they are fairly certain to be considered “within the scope” of the warrant.
While the courts interpret the scope of warrants very broadly, other aspects of search warrants can be found to be unreasonable. If you believe you or a loved-one have been the victim of an unreasonable search and seizure, you will need an experienced defense attorney to present the right argument to the judge. Contact the Law Office of Van R. Irion today for a consultation.