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Search Warrants

All American citizens have a right to privacy in their homes. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans from illegal search and seizures by law enforcement. Police officers must have a valid warrant signed by a judge to search your home or business.

Law enforcement can only issue a search warrant if they have probable cause of a crime.  Probable cause is when an officer has a reasonable amount of suspicion an offense is about to take place. Officers who don’t have probable cause are conducting an illegal search and seizure.

If you believe you were the subject of an illegal search and seizure, it’s imperative you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Attorney for Search Warrants in St. Petersburg, Florida

You have a right to protect your property from unreasonable police procedures. If you or someone you know is about to undergo a search and seizure, contact the attorneys at Morris Law Firm, P.A.. Our attorneys can review the affidavit and challenge the search warrant if necessary.

Contact us today at (727) 388-4736 to schedule a free consultation. We practice law at the Pinellas County Justice Center and surrounding areas including Bradenton, Clearwater, Tampa and St. Petersburg. 

Overview of Search Warrants in Florida


Search Warrant Process in Florida

The search warrant process begins with law enforcement. An officer will draft up an affidavit detailing why a search warrant is necessary. A judge will then examine the affidavit and any other documents submitted. If the judge agrees with the affidavit, they will sign it to make the search warrant valid.

The search warrant must be executed within ten days of its issuance. Law enforcement will use the “knock and announce” method to notify the owner of the property. A search and seizure can happen during the day or at night. In addition, an officer does reserve the right to break down a door or window to execute the warrant.

Law enforcement is required to give the person being searched a copy of the warrant. They’re also required to create an inventory of property seized. A copy of the inventory can be given to the person being searched upon request. Officers who don’t have proper documentation for a search warrant are conducting an illegal search and seizure. 

It’s important to remember that you must have probable cause to conduct a search warrant. Probable cause is when an officer has a reasonable enough suspicion, supported by various circumstances, that a crime is or will take place. Law enforcement must record probable cause in their affidavits when they appear in front of a judge. If the judge doesn’t believe there is enough probable cause, they can reject the warrant completely.


Florida Search Warrant Laws

Law enforcement must follow Florida laws when issuing a search warrant. Florida law has different standards for searching a public property and a private property. For public properties, Florida Statute § 933.02 states law enforcement can issue a search warrant if:

  • The property was stolen or embezzled;
  • The property was used to:
    • Commit a crime;
    • For gambling or gambling implements and appliances; or
    • Violate laws for obscene prints and literature.
  • The property has evidence that showing a felony was committed;
  • The property was held or possessed because:
    • It was violating laws for the manufacture, sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors;
    • It violated fish and game laws;
    • It violated relevant food and drug laws;
    • It violated laws relative to citrus disease management.
  • The property has evidence of cruelty to animals. 

Private dwellings such as apartments or homes have different regulations. Florida Statute § 933.18 states a private dwelling can be searched if there is evidence of:

  • The illegal sale, possession or manufacture of intoxicating liquor;
  • The property being stolen or embezzled;
  • Gambling;
  • Frauds and swindles;
  • Narcotic or drug abuse;
  • A weapon or other relevant evidence a felony was committed;
  • One or more of the following offenses were committed;
    • Interference with custody;
    • An unnatural and lascivious act with a child; or
    • Exposure of sexual organs to a child.
  • It’s used for a business purpose such as a store, saloon, hotel or restaurant.
  • Cruelty of animals took place or is taking place there; or
  • Sexual cyber harassment.

Search Warrant Requirements in Florida

Police officers must meet certain requirements to issue a search warrant. Florida Statute §933.07 states a search warrant is valid if it contains: 

  • A signature by an impartial judge;
  • The name of the person being searched;
  • Description of the items and premises searched;
  • The person or items that are to be seized;
  • Any communication to be intercepted; and
  • Probable cause that justifying the warrant.

Exceptions to Search Warrant Laws in Florida

Some specific places and circumstances don’t require a search warrant. Exceptions to Florida’s search warrant requirements include:

  • Inventory searches;
  • Terry stops;
  • Public school searches;
  • Airport or border security searches;
  • Inventory searches;
  • Searches after arrest;
  • If the item seized is in plain view of the officer;
  • To prevent the destruction of alleged evidence;
  • To prevent the escape of an alleged offender; or
  • To protect life and liberty. 

A “Terry stop” is a brief investigatory stop of a person without a warrant. To justify the stop, law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion the person being searched was involved in criminal activity. This is different from probable cause, which is a standard for warrants and arrests. 

Reasonable suspicious is a lesser standard than probable cause. A person has reasonable suspicion if they believe something based on specific and articulable facts. The suspicion must be formulated by the rational inferences from those facts. 


Penalties for Obstructing a Search Warrant in Florida

People who attempt to obstruct, resist or oppose a search warrant are breaking the law. Florida Statue §933.15 states anyone who obstructs a search warrant may face a first-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by: 

  • Up to one year in jail; and
  • A possible $1,000 fine.

Additional Resources 

Florida Search Warrant Laws – Visit the official website of Online Sunshine to view a collection of Florida state laws. Access the statutes to learn more about search warrants, more about inspection warrants and the penalty for illegal search and seizures.

Florida Crime Information Center – Visit the official website of the Florida Crime Information Center to search for statewide warrants. Access the site to read  more about search warrants, arrest warrants and missing persons. 


Attorney for Search Warrants in Pinellas County, Florida

If you or someone you know has been subject to a search warrant, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A skilled attorney can collect evidence, file motions and fight the allegations held against you. 

Find an experienced attorney at Morris Law Firm, P.A.. Our attorneys have years of experience representing people who were victims of illegal search and seizures. We can use our resources to create a strong defense strategy for you. Contact us now at (727) 388-4736 for a free consultation.

Morris Law Firm, P.A. accepts clients throughout the greater Pinellas County area including St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Dunedin, and Largo.


This article was last updated on December 31, 2018.