Searches and Seizures Pursuant to Warrant

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Emphasis upon the necessity of warrants places the judgment of an independent magistrate between law enforcement officers and the privacy of citizens, authorizes invasion of that privacy only upon a showing that constitutes probable cause, and limits that invasion by specification of the person to be seized, the place to be searched, and the evidence to be sought.108 Although a warrant is issued ex parte, its validity may be contested in a subsequent suppression hearing if incriminating evidence is found and a prosecution is brought.109

108 Although the exceptions may be different for arrest warrants and search warrants, the requirements for the issuance of the two are the same. Aguilar v. Texas, 378 U.S. 108, 112 n.3 (1964). Also, the standards by which the validity of warrants are to be judged are the same, whether federal or state officers are involved. Ker v. California, 374 U.S. 23 (1963).

109 Most often, in the suppression hearings, the defendant will challenge the sufficiency of the evidence presented to the magistrate to constitute probable cause. Spinelli v. United States, 393 U.S. 410 (1969); United States v. Harris, 403 U.S. 573 (1971). He may challenge the veracity of the statements used by the police to procure the warrant and otherwise contest the accuracy of the allegations going to establish probable cause, but the Court has carefully hedged his ability to do so. Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). He may also question the power of the official issuing the warrant, Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 449–53 (1971), or the specificity of the particularity required. Marron v. United States, 275 U.S. 192 (1927).