Search Warrant Rules in Florida

When deciding whether the search warrant can be invalidated, a criminal defense attorney will look for the following types of problems:

  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?

The attorneys at 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.

The criminal defense attorney might also file a motion to suppress during a Franks hearing if:

  • the affiant stated false information in the affidavit knowingly and intentionally or with a reckless disregard for the truth (rather than through mere negligence or an innocent mistake); and
  • the remaining allegations are insufficient to support a probable cause finding; or
  • that false or intentionally misleading statement was necessary to find probable cause.

See Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 98 S. Ct. 2674, 57 L. Ed. 2d 667 (1978).

If your case involves a search warrant in Tampa, Hillsborough County, or the surrounding areas in Florida, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm.

Call (813) 250-0500 to discuss your case today.

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 the following:

  1. names of the persons to whom the warrant is directed – usually law enforcement officers in a particular agency;
  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 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 the legal process.

Ways the Property Must be Described in the Search Warrant

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

Suppose the affidavit supporting the warrant indicates that the evidence sought is primarily on the grounds and not inside the building or buildings. In that case, 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. Sometimes, 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. Suppose 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. In that case, these 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 comply with the “return of property to the court” provision. Because of obvious physical and 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 ten (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 the 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 usually be cured just because the language in the affidavit addressed that issue. The two documents will not be reasonably construed as one total document without incorporating the affidavit into the warrant.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.