Imagine that you are at your home or office when federal agents (e.g., FBI, DEA, ATF) serve you with a search warrant. They may go through your belongings and seize property such as your computer and physical files. The experience is stressful and potentially overwhelming, but you may have a lot of immediate questions:
- Am I going to be charged with a crime?
- How did they get the warrant?
- Should I speak to the agents?
- What are my rights?
- What happens after the agents conclude the search?
If the FBI, for example, believe you are involved in committing a federal crime, they may attempt to get a search warrant. They are generally looking for evidence that can be used against you or someone else. Regardless, the FBI has to show probable cause that you committed a federal crime. This can be achieved in the following ways:
- A sworn affidavit
- Previously-recorded testimony
A judge or federal magistrate has to determine whether the government has probable cause. If so, the judge also defines the scope of the warrant. It addresses the timeframe in which it must be executed and what can and cannot be searched or seized. Furthermore, you will not be privy to what is being alleged or have any ability to argue against allegations made in a request for search warrant. An affidavit in support of the warrant will be presented to the assigned judge, who will review and determine whether the warrant should be issued.
During & After
If a search warrant has been validly executed, then law enforcement has the legal right to search the property as outlined in the warrant. Sometimes, law enforcement will try and initiate questioning. Although search warrants authorize federal agents to search and seize people, it does not authorize the questioning of a person.
You have rights—and you can speak to a federal criminal defense attorney before making any statements or answering questions. You will be under a significant amount of stress, and your attorney can be the one to advise you on how to proceed.
If the agents leave and you haven’t been detained, there is still no guarantee that you won’t be charged with a crime.
You must remember that you have rights. Though you will not be present when the federal agents demonstrate what probable cause they have to get the warrant issued, that doesn’t mean your attorney cannot challenge it after the search has been conducted. Leverage your attorney during these situations because that is when you need her the most. React appropriately, and experienced legal counsel can advise how best to proceed. Contact Puglisi Law to schedule your free consultation.