Have You Been Served a Federal Search Warrant? Here’s What You Need to Know
A search and seizure warrant may be issued if federal officials have probable cause to believe that your property contains evidence of a crime. Learn more here from the Law Office of Valery Nechay.
What Is a Federal Search and Seizure Warrant?
In a criminal investigation, an agency may ask a federal magistrate judge to sign a search warrant, allowing them to look through the person’s property. In order to gain entry to the premises, the agents must have an affidavit that outlines how the crime was committed, what evidence they have, and what they want to search (person, property, and/or vehicle).
The person’s property will be subject to search if the facts of the case support the beliefs of the agency. The law enforcement agency seeking the search and seizure warrant simply needs the signature of a federal judge. With this signature, they then have the authority to perform a search or seizure on the property they believe to contain evidence of a crime.
Both state governments and federal governments can issue search warrants. You may wonder how a federally-issued warrant differs from a state-issued warrant. For one, when these warrants are issued is different. When you are accused of violating federal law, the court shall issue a federal warrant. States, on the other hand, might issue a warrant when you are accused of violating a law or possessing property that was involved in a crime in the state where you reside.
In any case, if a search warrant has been issued in your name by the United States federal government, you need a strong attorney to protect your rights, and San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Valery Nechay can do exactly that. Find out below what you should do if you’ve received a federal warrant to search your property, then contact the Law Office of Valery Nechay for a free criminal case evaluation.
How to Perform a United States Federal Search Warrant Lookup
Unfortunately, you may not be immediately aware if there is a federal warrant issued in your name. The U.S. Marshals’ Office keeps a database of federal arrest warrants for those who work in law enforcement or similar agencies. This database is known as the Warrant Information System or WIN. When WIN is accessed, the user can see court records, the warrant itself, internal correspondence, and other pertinent information.
Though it is rare, the court may send you a letter regarding your warrant. If you are wondering if you have an outstanding warrant, you can simply call the federal clerk of courts and ask. However, they may not always be willing to provide this information over the phone. You may also choose to perform a federal warrant search at the court, but you may not want to assume the risk, especially if you have an accompanying arrest warrant. A seasoned criminal defense attorney can assist you in obtaining such information.
A friend or family member may inform you that they received a call from federal agents asking for your location or other information. It is more likely that federal law enforcement agents will show up at your door, knock, and announce themselves to let you know you have a federal warrant that is being executed. You are entitled to read and review the physical search warrant when law enforcement appears before you to execute the warrant. No matter the circumstances, if you discover you have a warrant, you should call an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
Other Ways to Find Federal Search Warrants
While there are a few different ways to see if a search warrant exists as mentioned above, the most effective course of action is to contact a reputable criminal law firm like Valery Nechay Law. Attorney Valery Nechay has the experience and know-how to help determine if a warrant has been issued to search your property.
You may also contact the federal clerk where you live and ask them to look for your name in the National Crime Information Database at a police agency.
Federal Search and Seizure Warrant Affidavit Procedure
You may wonder how an agency goes about obtaining a warrant in an investigation. Here is a brief summary of the steps they need to complete:
1. Obtaining a Warrant
The federal agency must write an affidavit and compile the necessary information to submit to a federal magistrate judge. The judge determines if there is probable cause to search the property. However, the warrant must be issued by a neutral judge, who is capable of determining if probable cause exists.
In this case, “probable cause” means that there is evidence of a crime that may be involved with the property. They may agree to issue a warrant based on the sworn testimony of witnesses, which may be recorded. The transcript and affidavit will both be filed by the clerk of court.
According to Rule 4.1, a warrant can be issued based on information that occurred over the phone or through other electronic devices.
So, in case a federal agency has a reason to believe that an individual has been involved in a federal offense, they may request from a federal magistrate judge to issue a warrant for search and seizure of a person or property. But, to obtain such a warrant, federal agents have to present a written affidavit and explain the reasons why they think that specific individual has committed a crime and why they think the evidence will be found on his or her property or a property they would like to search.
If the magistrate judge agrees federal agents have enough information and evidence to back up their story, she or he will sign the warrant and give them permission to search the property they want.
2. Issuing a Warrant
When the judge issues a warrant, it must be executed by federal law enforcement officers. The warrant must identify who the warrant is for, what will be searched, what property will be confiscated, and which judge the evidence must be given to. So, a warrant must include a description of a defendant by which she or he can be identified with reasonable certainty or his or her name, as well as a description of the offense they are being charged with.
The warrant is required to be executed by a federal agent within a fourteen-day period of time unless the judge says otherwise and be returned to the magistrate judge who signed it.
Warrants may also be issued for information stored electronically. This means storage media may be seized. The information contained on the devices may be reviewed later.
Whether or not your search and seizure warrant has already been executed, you should contact an attorney as soon as you are aware of its existence. Your attorney will work directly with you to ensure that you do not incriminate yourself and that your Fourth Amendment rights to a reasonable expectation of privacy and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures are not being violated. Additionally, if your property has been unjustly confiscated following the execution of a search warrant, an asset forfeiture attorney may be able to help you reclaim it.
Federal Search Warrant Requirements
The federal government has set forth several rules and requirements regarding the issuance and execution of a warrant. First, the Fourth Amendment mandates that any search warrants must be specific. This means a warrant to search and seize a person or property must identify what items the agency is searching for and the place to be searched by officials (vehicle, home, work, etc.) They may not search in additional areas or locked containers that are outside the scope of the search warrant; for those items, they would need to obtain additional search warrants.
In addition, the Fourth Amendment also states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Because of that, warrants can’t be issued unless “upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”To get a warrant to search and seize a person or property, the agency must prove that probable cause for search and seizure exists based on their personal observations or other pertinent information. The application for a warrant may rely upon hearsay, but that does not mean it can not create probable cause.
Federal agents can both arrest a person and search or seize property at the same time. Sometimes, the evidence collected without a search and seizure warrant cannot garner a conviction, but it may be enough to allow the agency to get a warrant to obtain more evidence of the crime that may eventually be allowed as evidence against you in a trial.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a federal crime, or there is a warrant out to search your property, or you simply have questions about searches and seizures, contact a skilled attorney at the Law Office of Valery Nechay today to schedule a free consultation and begin setting the foundation for a better and brighter future.
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