Thursday, July 2, 2015

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN ENCOUNTERING LAW ENFORCEMENT

SEARCHES AND WARRANTS

 

Q: Can law enforcement officers search my home or office?
A: Law enforcement officers can search your home only if they
have a warrant or your consent. In your absence, the police can
search your home based on the consent of your roommate or a
guest if the police reasonably believe that person has the
authority to consent. Law enforcement officers can search your
office only if they have a warrant or the consent of the employer.
If your employer consents to a search of your office, law
enforcement officers can search your workspace whether you
consent or not.
Q: What are warrants and what should I make sure
they say?
A: A warrant is a piece of paper signed by a judge giving law
enforcement officers permission to enter a home or other
building to do a search or make an arrest. A search warrant
allows law enforcement officers to enter the place described in
the warrant to look for and take items identified in the warrant.
An arrest warrant allows law enforcement officers to take you
into custody. An arrest warrant alone does not give law
enforcement officers the right to search your home (but they
can look in places where you might be hiding and they can take
evidence that is in plain sight), and a search warrant alone
does not give them the right to arrest you (but they can arrest
you if they find enough evidence to justify an arrest). A warrant
must contain the judge’s name, your name and address, the
date, place to be searched, a description of any items being
searched for, and the name of the agency that is conducting
the search or arrest. An arrest warrant that does not have your
name on it may still be validly used for your arrest if it
describes you with enough detail to identify you, and a search
warrant that does not have your name on it may still be valid if
it gives the correct address and description of the place the
officers will be searching. However, the fact that a piece of
paper says “warrant” on it does not always mean that it is an
arrest or search warrant. A warrant of deportation/removal,
for example, is a kind of administrative warrant and does not
grant the same authority to enter a home or other building to
do a search or make an arrest

 

What should I do if officers come to my house?
A: If law enforcement officers knock on your door, instead of opening
the door, ask through the door if they have a warrant. If the
answer is no, do not let them into your home and do not answer any
questions or say anything other than “I do not want to talk to you.” If
the officers say that they do have a warrant, ask the officers to slip
it under the door (or show it to you through a peephole, a window in
your door, or a door that is open only enough to see the warrant). If
you feel you must open the door, then step outside, close the door
behind you and ask to see the warrant. Make sure the search warrant
contains everything noted above, and tell the officers if they are
at the wrong address or if you see some other mistake in the warrant.
(And remember that an immigration “warrant of
removal/deportation” does not give the officer the authority to enter
your home.) If you tell the officers that the warrant is not complete
or not accurate, you should say you do not consent to the search,
but you should not interfere if the officers decide to do the search
even after you have told them they are mistaken. Call your lawyer
as soon as possible. Ask if you are allowed to watch the search; if
you are allowed to, you should. Take notes, including names, badge
numbers, which agency each officer is from, where they searched
and what they took. If others are present, have them act as witnesses
to watch carefully what is happening.
Q: Do I have to answer questions if law enforcement officers
have a search or arrest warrant?
A: No. Neither a search nor arrest warrant means you have to
answer questions.
Q: What if law enforcement officers do not have a search warrant?
A: You do not have to let law enforcement officers search your
home, and you do not have to answer their questions. Law enforcement
officers cannot get a warrant based on your refusal, nor can
they punish you for refusing to give consent.
Q: What if law enforcement officers tell me they will come
back with a search warrant if I do not let them in?
A: You can still tell them that you do not consent to the search and
that they need to get a warrant. The officers may or may not succeed
in getting a warrant if they follow through and ask the court
for one, but once you give your consent, they do not need to try to
get the court’s permission to do the search.

 

Q: What if law enforcement officers do not have a search
warrant, but they insist on searching my home even
after I object?
A: You should not interfere with the search in any way because
you could get arrested. But you should say clearly that you
have not given your consent and that the search is against your
wishes. If someone is there with you, ask him or her to witness
that you are not giving permission for the search. Call your
lawyer as soon as possible. Take note of the names and badge
numbers of the searching officers.

 

REFERRAL CONTACT INFORMATION
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC):
(202) 244-2990
http://www.adc.org/
American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF):
(202) 742-5600
http://www.ailf.org/
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):
(800) 954-0254
http://www.aila.org/
Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF):
(212) 966-5932
https://www.aaldef.org/
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR):
(202) 488-8787
http://www.cair.com/
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF):
(213) 629-2512
http://www.maldef.org/
National Lawyers Guild (NLG):
(212) 679-5100
http://www.nlg.org/
National Immigration Law Center (NILC):
(213) 639-3900
http://www.nilc.org/
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (NAACP LDF):
(212) 965-2200
http://www.naacpldf.org/
National Immigration Project:
(617) 227-9727
http://www.nationalimmigrationproject.org/
Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF):
(800) 328-2322
http://www.prldef.org/
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT):
(310) 270-1855
http://www.saalt.org/
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (UCCR):
(800) 552-6843
http://www.usccr.gov/