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Rules Regarding Search Warrants in Florida

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are experienced in fighting search warrant cases. In many of these cases, a motion can be filed to show that the warrant is defective on its face which might lead to the suppression of evidence or a dismissal of the charges.

If your case involves a search warrant in Tampa, Hillsborough County, or the surrounding areas in Florida, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Call 813-250-0500 to discuss your case today. 

A criminal defense attorney will look for the following types of obvious problems often found to invalidate the search warrant: 

  1. To whom is the warrant directed?
  2. Does that person have jurisdiction?
  3. Does the command clause conform with the salutation?
  4. Is the place or thing to be searched described with specificity?
  5. Are the things to be seized described with particularity?
  6. Does the probable cause support a reasonable conclusion that the evidence to be seized is still there?
  7. Was the warrant stale when it was served? 

Seven Elements for a Search Warrant in Florida

For the most part, a search warrant must contain seven elements to be considered legally acceptable including: 

  1. names of the persons to whom the warrant is directed - usually law enforcement officers; 
  2. a description of the premises or item to be searched; 
  3. the grounds that justify issuing the warrant; 
  4. detailed descriptions of any property to be seized; 
  5. an inventory of items seized; 
  6. a provision for duplicate service; and
  7. incorporation of the affidavit into the warrant. 

If any of these elements are missing, a criminal defense attorney can often contest the warrant by filing the appropriate motions which might lead to the warrant from being declared defective on its face.


Section 12 of the Declarations of Rights Portion of the Florida Constitution

Section 12 of the Declaration of Rights portion of the Florida Constitution states that for a search warrant to be legally valid it must describe, with particularity:

  1. The place or places to be searched; 
  2. The person or persons, thing or things, to be seized; 
  3. The communication, if any, to be intercepted; and
  4. The nature of the evidence to be obtained.

The search warrant must be directed by a judge to a sheriff and his deputies, to a police officer, or to any other person authorized by law to execute legal process.


Ways the Property Must be Described in the Search Warrant

It may not be necessarily for the search warrant to describe the legal description of a building or dwelling to be searched, although it is usually necessary to list the known mailing address, accompanied by a detailed physical description of the present appearance of the premises. Although it is not necessary to uphold the warrant, if a photo of the property is available it will often be attached to the search warrant.

If the affidavit in support of the warrant indicates that the evidence sought is primarily on the grounds and not inside the building or buidings, then the description of the premises will usually allege that the evidence sought is to be found in the structure or the curtilage thereof. The phrase "curtilage" might include the yard, garden, driveway or field near and in use with the structure. In some cases, a motor vehicle may be part of the curtilage depending on where the vehicle was parked. 

Any property to be seized should be described in specific detail. If certain papers or documents, which are in any way related to a violation of state law, are known to exist and are referred to in the affidavit, these too should be specifically described in the warrant.


Inventory and Receipt of Property Seized Under the Search Warrant

For most people served with a search warrant, the officers will leave an “Inventory and Receipt of Property Seized under the Search Warrant.”

Under F.S. 933.07, a search warrant must also comply with the “return of property to the court” provision. Because of obvious physical practical limitations, the warrant will not indicate that the seized evidence will be brought to the judge who issued the warrant. Instead, the warrant will usually state that an inventory of the property will be submitted to the judge within 10 days of the signing of the warrant.  

The warrant should also provide for duplicate service of the search warrant, for the delivery of a written inventory of items taken, and receipt for such items. 

The officer that drafted the paperwork will usually use language expressly incorporating the affidavit into the search warrant. Those words of reference are deemed appropriate. Without those words, a defect in a search warrant will not normally be cured just because the language in the affidavit addressed that issue. Without incorporating the affidavit into the warrant, the two documents will not be reasonably construed as one total document.  


This article was last updated on Monday, July 11, 2016.