When law enforcement shows up at your office with a search warrant, it is an extremely serious matter. They have already reached the point where they believe there is criminal activity. The San Francisco law firm of Delahunty & Edelman, LLP can defend you vigorously.
A search warrant of your office is usually an intermediate step in the white-collar criminal process. Law enforcement has likely been investigating for some time, but there is a strong chance that criminal charges may follow. Still, you have rights relating to searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment.
If you learn that you are being investigated, or officers have shown up to execute a search warrant at your office, you need an experienced white-collar defense attorney immediately. Call the attorneys at Delahunty & Edelman today to discuss your case and formulate a legal strategy.
When a magistrate signs off on a search warrant, they do not give law enforcement an unlimited right to search anywhere that is connected to you. The Fourth Amendment guarantees you the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. A search warrant needs to be reasonable in scope. A magistrate usually allows law enforcement to search areas where they can articulate are tied to criminal activity.
If a judge has issued a search warrant for your office, they believe that it has a connection to criminal activity. In most cases, law enforcement believes that you are involved in the potential crime (although there are times when offices are searched because they could be connected to what someone else may have done). Nonetheless, if law enforcement shows up at your office with a warrant, it is an extremely serious matter, and you almost certainly have not heard the last of it.
Generally, the subject of a search warrant has the right to challenge the search itself by attacking the probable cause on which the search was based. The information that supports officers’ belief that there is probable cause is found in the affidavit.
Law enforcement must provide you with a copy of the search warrant. In white-collar investigations, they will often not give you the affidavit upon which probable cause rests. Prosecutors will usually seek an order that seals the affidavit, arguing that it protects confidential information, such as identities of witnesses, or allows the government to act with dispatch. Even if there is no seal, law enforcement will not bring a copy of the affidavit to the premises being searched. Through your white-collar criminal defense lawyer, you may need to fight to obtain access to the affidavit or have the court review the affidavit during an in-camera hearing when you are contesting probable cause.
Your other Constitutional rights apply when law enforcement is executing a search warrant. They do not have a right to question you at the time, and you can decline to provide answers if they do. However, you also do not have the right to be present during the search. Law enforcement can remove you from the premises. You may need to figure out afterward where they searched, and what they did, if you want to argue that law enforcement exceeded the scope of the warrant.
Law enforcement generally only seeks and executes a search warrant at the point where they believe that they have probable cause. Although the Constitution does not give a definition of probable cause, the United States Supreme Court defined it Berger v. New York as:
“where the facts and circumstances within the officers’ knowledge, and of which they have reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to warrant a belief by a man of reasonable caution that a crime is being committed.”
The white-collar context is different from other types of circumstances. Elsewhere, police may get probable cause to search based on something that they have seen, Law enforcement would generally only seek a search warrant of your office after an extensive investigation. They would need to build evidence to persuade a magistrate to issue the search warrant.
If the government has already executed a search warrant, chances are that they already believe that they may have sufficient grounds to charge you with a crime. They are now seeking additional evidence that they can use to draft an indictment and use in the case against you. If you do not already have a white collar defense lawyer at the time that the search warrant is executed, you would definitely need one now.
You can afford to be without counsel from an experienced white-collar defense attorney. If you would like to discuss your rights and options in responding to the execution of a search warrant, please contact one of the attorneys at Delahunty & Edelman LLP.
Patrick Delahunty is a former federal prosecutor with deep experience in resolving disputes. He advises individuals and companies in complex criminal, regulatory, and commercial litigation.