FRANKS MOTION – CHALLENGING A SEARCH WARRANT
Our law firm represents individuals charged with crimes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The most common crimes that we defend are those considered possessory crimes. These offenses involve the illegal possession of drugs, narcotics, guns, and firearms. Some of these cases come to us following a vehicle stop where police recover these items, but others are the result of home or business searches. Whenever a person is charged with a possessory offense, the criminal defense lawyer must evaluate pre-trial motions which focus on the exclusion of evidence. This is often the strongest defense argument because often, if the items are admitted into evidence, the defense lawyer must argue some type of possession argument which a court may not find persuasive.
Pre-Trial Motions to Exclude Evidence & Search Warrants
Pre-trial motions which seek to exclude evidence are otherwise known as motions to suppress and most of them deal with the probable cause to stop, arrest, or search an individual, his vehicle, his home, or place of business. While Pennsylvania and New Jersey allow warrantless searches of vehicles, in most situations police need a search warrant to look for items in a person’s residence. All home searches done without a warrant are presumed unconstitutional. While this is a rebuttable presumption, the prosecution must demonstrate some type of exigent circumstances which made it impractical for law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching the premises.
If police use a warrant to search your home, it is very important that your criminal lawyer attorney evaluate the basis of the warrant which is contained in the affidavit of probable cause. In the affidavit, the police officer will document why he or she believes contraband will be found in the premises. A judge will review the affidavit of probable cause and issue a warrant if he believes that there is probable cause to find that police will recover the contraband from the premises.
What is a Franks’ Motion?
There are situations where police falsify or simply lie on affidavits of probable cause to obtain a warrant. This is the purpose of a “Franks Motion.” A Franks Motion is named for a United States Supreme Court case (Franks v. Delaware, 1978). In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that a warrant obtained with an affidavit which contained information which police knew was not true is invalid.
The Franks decision allows criminal defense attorneys to challenge search warrants if they believe police knowingly falsified the affidavit or it contained information that they knew was false. This is an incredibly powerful motion. If the court grants the motion, the evidence in question is inadmissible in court and in many cases will lead to the prosecution withdrawing the charges or substantially downgrading them (felonies to misdemeanor offenses).
If you’re charged with an illegal drug, narcotic, or drug crime it is important that your criminal defense lawyer considers a Franks Motion along with other criminal defense strategies.
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