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Constitutional validity of search warrants

Last week's post touched upon the numerous drug crime charges that two young women found themselves facing after their vehicle was searched with what police officers are claiming was probable cause. It is important to understand what these terms mean and how they affect an Ohio resident's rights.

When police officers or competent authorities have to search a specified place for evidence without the occupants consent, a search warrant is required. A competent authority, generally considered to be judges or magistrates, issues a search warrant. This search warrant is required for the search to be considered reasonable under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Police officials must demonstrate that they have probable cause to believe that their search is justified. This is done by submitting sworn affidavits to the issuing authority, and these documents must specifically describe the place officials are intending to search and the items that will be seized. A search pursuant to a warrant lacking authority is equal to a warrantless search and can be found to violate the Fourth Amendment.

Judges generally have to figure out if the search is reasonable given the totality of the circumstances. Case law has developed a number of factors to consider while making this determination and exceptions to the rule as well. Having an experienced defense attorney by one's side when arguing a violation of the Fourth Amendment might be beneficial. These types of situations are very stressful and trying, but it's important to remember that an individual doesn't need to face them alone.

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