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What To Do First If Federal Agents Come to Your Home With a Search Warrant

November 1, 2021 Federal Criminal Attorneys
What To Do First If Federal Agents Come to Your Home With a Search Warrant
The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires the government to have a valid reason to search your property. For example, an officer can’t search your vehicle unless there is a reason to believe that you have committed a crime. The same is generally true when it comes to going through your home as part of an investigation. Let’s talk about what you should do if a federal agent comes to your house and says that he or she has a warrant to search the premises.

Ask to See the Warrant

The first thing that you should do is ask to see the warrant. You should also verify that the people at your door are actually federal agents. After verifying that whoever at your door actually has the right to go through your home, you should contact an attorney while the search is ongoing. In most cases, you will be asked to vacate the property to ensure that you don’t obstruct the government’s ability to carry out its duties in this matter. Therefore, calling an attorney is the only thing that you can do to help yourself start to counter any issues that may arise after your interaction with the authorities.

Don’t Escalate the Situation

It may be tempting to scream, yell or otherwise threaten the agents at your door. However, this will only increase the risk that you are charged with obstruction of justice, assault or other crimes in addition to whatever charges you may already face. If you are not the target of an investigation, acting in a threatening manner may simply get you into trouble unnecessarily.

Don’t Attempt to Hide or Destroy Evidence

It is never in your best interest to hide or destroy documents that may be related to an investigation. Even if you are able to shred paperwork, destroy a computer or scramble a file, the government has tools that can help to resurrect the data that these physical or digital files contained. Furthermore, destroying evidence could make it harder for your attorney to access the information needed to mount a quality defense in the event that you are charged with a crime.

Anything Within Plain View Is Fair Game

It’s important to understand that anything that investigators can see with their own eyes while searching your home may be legally seized. This is often true even if the warrant doesn’t include the items that are in plain view. For example, if authorities are given permission to search a bedroom for contraband, they might still be able to seize the gun collection that is sitting on your kitchen table.

Investigators May Begin Collecting Evidence Outside Your Home

It’s also worth noting that Fourth Amendment protections generally don’t apply to areas where you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, the trash can outside of your house is generally considered to be public property because you have placed it outside where everyone can see it. The same may be true of anything else that you place in your yard. However, investigators generally cannot go through a mailbox, open your garage or otherwise venture into areas considered to be private unless they have a warrant.

Remember That You Haven’t Been Found Guilty of Anything

The fact that investigators are at your door does not mean that you have done anything wrong. It also doesn’t mean that anyone is going to be charged with a crime. Instead, it simply means that there is reason to believe that there is information available that could help determine if a crime was committed. In most cases, the person sent to your property will answer any questions that you have assuming that you ask them in a respectful manner and don’t act in a way that could be seen as impeding that individual’s efforts.

If you find yourself in the presence of government agents, it’s critical that you know how to handle yourself. Ideally, you’ll verify the warrant, stay clear of investigators while they search your home and call your attorney to let that person know what is going on. After the search is over, you and your legal team can get together to determine the best way to help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case.

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