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Basic Search Warrant Rules in Pennsylvania

Generally, search warrant issues arise in drug offense crimes.  In order for a search warrant to be valid and, thus, the search to also be valid, the police must follow the search warrant rules specified in the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure:

 A search warrant may be issued by:

any issuing authority within the judicial district

where either is located:

 the person

or place to be searched

This rule formally authorizes:

magisterial district judges, and judges of the Municipal, Common Pleas, Commonwealth, Superior, and Supreme Courts to issue search warrants.

 A search warrant may be issued to search for and to seize:

(1) contraband, the fruits of a crime, or things otherwise criminally possessed; or

(2) property that is or has been used as the means of committing a criminal offense; or

(3) property that constitutes evidence of the commission of a criminal offense.

Warrants may not be issued unless:

the affidavit alleges a pre-existing crime

Warrant may be used to search for and seize

property that is "mere evidence" of a crime

No search warrant shall issue:

but upon probable cause

supported by one or more affidavits

sworn to before the issuing authority

in person

or using advanced communication technology.

Issuing authority, in determining whether probable cause has been established,

may not consider any evidence outside the affidavits.

Mere suspicion is inadequate to establish probable cause,

affidavit need only set forth the fair probability

and not a prima facie case of criminal activity

Hearsay information is sufficient

so long as the magistrate has been provided with sufficient information to make a neutral and detached decision about whether

there is a fair probability that contraband

or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.

Ø  PA uses a "totality of the circumstances" test

Ø  If portion of probable cause section is based on illegal information,

Warrant may still be good if:

other paragraphs of probable cause are valid and sufficient to constitute probable cause.

 Informant's tip

§  considered together with the results of police surveillance of

§  and defendant's known reputation as a trafficker in contraband,

§  sufficient information given by informant to be reliable

§  informant turned over controlled substance to police may be viewed as corroborative evidence of his reliability

Anonymous tip

§  Without any more information that corroborated anonymous informant's tip was invalid for search warrant

§  Must have corroboration

§  statements of different informants may be regarded as supporting each other when taken together

If you or someone you love has had their home search pursuant to a search warrant and is facing criminal charges, contact the experienced and aggressive attorneys at the Kelly Law Firm.


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