By Ralph Habib, Esq.
Criminal Procedure Law Article 690 governs Search Warrants
As Americans, we all have increased expectations of privacy in our homes. Pursuant to the 4th Amendment, we are supposed to enjoy a life free from being subjected to unreasonable government searches and seizures. A search warrant is an instrument used under specific circumstances by law enforcement to pierce the protection of these expectations.
How Are Search Warrants Granted and by Whom?
A local criminal court may, upon an application of a police officer, or other designated law enforcement official issue a search warrant. Typically, a police officer makes an application, either in writing or orally to a local criminal court that has at least preliminary jurisdiction over the underlying offense or property to be searched. Adjoining towns may issue warrants if the jurisdictional entity is not available. In other words, the police must prepare a written search warrant affidavit demonstrating probable cause.
What Can Be Searched Pursuant To A Search Warrant?
With sufficient specificity, a person, place or vehicle. The corresponding warrant cannot be used to authorize search of an entire residence if the item or items sought could not practically be found in certain areas.
What Is Included In An Application For A Search Warrant?
Any search warrant issued pursuant to CPL Article 690 shall contain the name of the court and the title of the applicant, as well as a statement that articulates the reasonable cause upon which the application is made that the subject of the search warrant, whether person or property may be found in designated premises or places to be searched. The statement must contain allegations of fact supporting such conclusions. These allegations of fact can be made upon information and belief or personal knowledge. If the statement is upon information and belief the source and grounds must be included.
A request for a search warrant must also contain specificity with regard to the property and with regard to persons, a description of the person as well as a copy of the arrest warrant and the underlying accusatory instrument.
If the search warrant was granted upon oral application, it must state the name of the issuing judge, and the time and date on which such judge directed its issuance.
May Police Execute a Search Warrant At Any Time of Day or Night?
Yes, with permission granted based on information supported by allegations of fact contained in the application articulating reasonable cause to believe that it cannot be executed between the hours of 6:00 AM and 9:00 PM or that the property sought will be destroyed or moved if not seized forthwith, or if the person sought is likely to flee or commit another crime, or if his imminent arrest may lead to the harm of the police executing the search warrant or other person(s).
Do The Police Have To Announce That They Have A Search Warrant?
Not necessarily. A request may be made by asking the court to allow the executing personnel to enter without giving notice of their authority and purpose, if it can be shown by articulating reasonable cause to believe that either the property sought might be easily destroyed or moved, or if giving such notice could endanger the life of either the police or another person or persons. This “No Knock” provision obviates the requirement that the police show you the search warrant and allow you to inspect it if you ask to see it.
Who Pays For The Damage Caused By An Executed Search Warrant?
Often times, when police execute a search warrant they leave a path of destruction in their wake. If you are the owner of the subject property or a tenant you may be left with the pressing question of who will be stuck with the bill for the damage.
The answer may end up depending on what relationship you have with the subject party. If you are a tenant who just had his apartment ransacked by the police, the landlord may have to initiate a claim for damage done to the apartment itself but not your property. The landlord would initiate the claim with the city or county’s risk management department. Many public entities are self–insured. You may find yourself being referred to a third party administrator or private insurance company.
As a tenant, even with renters insurance, you may not be covered unless the policy explicitly covers you for damage as a result of a police action. Since search warrants are specific as to the property and persons, some searches especially for smaller sized property can result in extensive damage to property.