What Are the Search Warrant Requirements in Michigan?

search warrant requirements

In many criminal cases, the prosecution relies almost entirely on evidence that was seized during a search. If your criminal defense lawyer can challenge the legality of the search and have this evidence excluded from trial, the defendant stands a much better chance of successfully having the case dismissed or negotiating a favorable plea arrangement. Search warrant requirements vary from state to state, and a criminal defense lawyer will verify that law enforcement fulfilled these requirements prior to conducting a search.

Ann Arbor criminal defense lawyer Robert Elmen can investigate the circumstances that led to your arrest, challenge whether the warrant was properly issued, and work to have the case against you dismissed or negotiate a favorable plea arrangement.

Law Enforcement Must Have Probable Cause to Obtain a Search Warrant

If a search was performed under a warrant, law enforcement officials must abide by certain legal search warrant requirements prior to searching. Understanding this process is critically important in protecting your Fourth Amendment right to be from unreasonable searches and seizures.

If law enforcement officials fail to follow the proper process to obtain a search warrant, the search and seizure is invalid, and any evidence obtained during the search is not permitted to be considered as evidence in a case against the defendant.

To obtain a search warrant, law enforcement officers must show the judge that there is probable cause to justify a search. Law enforcement officers must submit affidavits that describe, accurately and with particularity, the place to be searched and the items that will be seized. When deciding whether to issue a search warrant, the judge will consider the totality of the circumstances, including the likelihood that the items to be seized will be found during the search.

If law enforcement fails to adequately support the request for a warrant, the request should be denied.

If the search warrant requirements were not fulfilled, and the warrant was improperly issued, or if law enforcement conducts a search without a warrant, the defendant’s rights may have been violated and any evidence obtained during the search could be excluded from consideration by the judge or jury at trial.

The search warrant requirements are strict, and it is important that you discuss the circumstances that led to your arrest and the issuance of a warrant with your criminal defense attorney. By doing so, your attorney may uncover information that could be used to challenge the validity of the search and whether the warrant was properly issued. This could lead to having evidence suppressed, which makes it more likely that you will avoid the harsh penalties of a conviction.

Exceptions to the Search Warrant Requirements

There are some notable exceptions to the requirement that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before performing a search.


Law enforcement agents are generally not allowed to enter your home or vehicle without a signed search warrant issued by a judge. However, police commonly arrive at a person’s home and ask to enter. If the homeowner allows the police to enter without a warrant, any evidence of illegal activity could lead to criminal charges being filed.

If the police come to your home, you should not allow them to enter. Under the Fourth Amendment, you are allowed to deny law enforcement entrance to your home unless they have a valid search warrant.

Remember, however, that police officers are not required to advise you of your right to refuse entrance to your home. You must assert your rights yourself by not permitting law enforcement agents to enter your home, even if the police tell you they will come back with a search warrant anyway. It is entirely possible that the judge will deny the request for a search warrant.

Plain View

If a police officer observes or smells something that indicates illegal activity, they are not required to obtain a warrant before conducting a search. Common examples of illegal activity that would allow a police officer to perform a search include smelling alcohol or marijuana during a traffic stop or observing a crime being committed through a window.

Stop and Frisk

Police officers are allowed to stop and frisk a person if they reasonably believe the person is engaged in criminal activity. For example, if police officers believe you are armed or are in possession of an illegal substance, they can stop you and search your person.

Search Incident to Arrest

If you have been stopped and are being placed under arrest, police officers have the right to search a reasonable area around you for weapons or other people who could potentially threaten the police officer’s safety.

Automobile Search Exceptions

If law enforcement has probable cause to believe that a vehicle contains evidence of criminal activity, law enforcement agents are not required to obtain a warrant before conducting a search of the vehicle. However, police are only allowed to search the vehicle in a manner that is consistent with the suspicion and probable cause at hand. For example, if police suspect a vehicle is being used to illegally transport people across the border, they are generally not allowed to search the driver’s person for evidence of illegal drugs.

Exigent Circumstances

Finally, there are exceptions to the search warrant requirement in cases of exigent circumstances. These exceptions allow law enforcement to search a premises if they are already there for another reason. For example, law enforcement is authorized to conduct a search if they were called to the scene to provide emergency assistance, if they are chasing someone who committed a crime and that person enters a building in an attempt to flee, or if they believe evidence is being destroyed inside a building, home, or vehicle.

Elmen Legal: Protecting the Rights of The Accused

The Fourth Amendment protects the rights of the accused. If law enforcement officials obtain evidence without complying with applicable search warrant requirements, any illegally obtained evidence can be suppressed and prohibited from being considered at trial.

If you are facing criminal charges and believe that evidence was illegally obtained, Elmen Legal can help. I will investigate the charges against you and the manner in which the evidence was obtained. I will challenge whether there was probable cause to issue the search warrant, and I will vigorously defend your rights in court.

Learn more about the cases I handle and read reviews from other people I have helped. Then contact Elmen Legal today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case and how I can help.

Elmen Legal proudly represents people in Ann Arbor, Saline, Pittsfield Township, Chelsea, or Ypsilanti, in Washtenaw, Wayne, Monroe, Lenawee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Ingham, Livingston, and Oakland Counties.