When a person is suspected of a crime, the police will often raid the person’s home in search of evidence. More formally, this is referred to as the execution of a search warrant.
Having one’s home raided is not a pleasant experience. Often, the police will dump clothes from drawers, throw belongings on the ground, and otherwise search the residence in a way that creates a total mess and damages property. The reality is that police often search in that manner, right in front of the home’s occupants, in the hope that they can upset the occupants and cause them to say incriminating things. That is because a person who is angry will not pick their words as carefully as a person who is calm, and police know that fact.
During the execution of a search warrant, the police will generally prevent anyone from arriving or leaving the home, or from using any property in the home. The best course of action for a person to take during the search is to remain silent and avoid discussing anything with the police. People who talk to the police under such stressful circumstances rarely do themselves any favors. Indeed, I can think of a great many cases where a client has caused themselves significant legal harm by talking to the police.
It is also wise to refrain from giving permission to search. Sometimes, even if the police have a warrant to search, that warrant may be limited in some respect. For example, it is possible that the police may have a warrant to search a home, but not to search a car that is parked on the street near the home. If a person consents to the search of the car, they may cause great harm to their case that could have been avoided had they simply remained silent.
After the police have left, it is wise to take pictures (and video) of the residence before anything is moved or touched by the home’s occupants. Doing so can help in a criminal case, as police may make inaccurate claims about the location of objections and how things were found, and sometimes having evidence of the state of things after the search can refuse those claims. In the event that there is a civil rights case to be had, as is discussed further down in this article, such pictures and video can also be of use.
The next wise step is to consult with an attorney, whether or not there have been charges filed or an arrest made yet. Properly handling a situation where a search warrant has been executed can be the difference between a favorable or unfavorable resolution to the case.
In some situations, there is a basis to challenge the search warrant and any evidence obtained from that search warrant. That process is called a Motion to Suppress. There is a related motion, called a Franks Motion, that can also serve the same purpose in certain cases. The legal rules concerning suppression of evidence are very detail driven, and the details of what happened before and during the execution of the search warrant will greatly affect the outcome of such a motion. A large part of an attorney role in a criminal defense case where there has been a raid on a person’s house often centers on such issues of suppression of evidence.
There are also cases where actions committed by a police officer in obtaining or executing a search warrant may constitute a violation of a person’s civil rights. In such a situation it is especially important to properly handle the situation so as to both defend against and criminal charges and also be able to address that civil rights violation in court.