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Search Warrant

Many people learn that they are the target of a criminal investigation when officers show up at their home or office to serve a search warrant. Officers also come with a goal of getting you to confess to the crime or make incriminating statements. You have the right to remain silent and the right to be represented by an attorney. Knowing how to exercise those rights might mean the difference between being exonerated or convicted of the crime.

After the search warrant is executed, immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and possible defenses.

The attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. have offices conveniently located in Des Moines, Iowa. They represent clients throughout Polk County and the surrounding area in Iowa. These attorneys are experienced in filing and litigating motions to suppress evidence obtained from the search warrant in the district courts.

In many of these cases, the attorney can show that the search warrant was defective and lacked probable cause to justify its issuance because it was premised on false statements.

Call McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. today to discuss your case.

Attacking the Search Warrant in Iowa

The inclusion of a false statement alone is insufficient to attack a search warrant. Instead, a defendant must show the affiant consciously falsified the challenged information or acted with reckless disregard for the truth when applying for the warrant. State v. Niehaus, 452 N.W.2d 184, 186–87 (Iowa 1990). Reckless disregard can be shown in two ways:

  1. proof that the applicant harbored serious doubts about the informant’s truthfulness; or
  2. showing circumstances evincing an obvious reason to doubt the informant’s veracity.

State v. McPhillips, 580 N.W.2d 748, 751 (Iowa 1998).

Negligence or mistake is insufficient. Id. Only after the requisite showing has been made does the court review the remainder of the application to determine whether probable cause existed to issue the warrant. Niehaus, 452 N.W.2d at 186–87

Probable Cause Must Support the Search Warrant

The Fourth Amendment requires every search warrant to be supported by probable cause. U.S. Const. amend. “Probable cause is established when a person of reasonable prudence would believe a crime was committed on the premises to be searched or evidence of a crime could be located there.” State v. Randle, 555 N.W.2d 666, 669 (Iowa 1996).

The warrant application must show “a nexus between the criminal activity, the things to be seized and the place to be searched.” Id. 

In making the probable-cause determination, “a judge may rely on reasonable common-sense inferences from the information presented.” State v. Poulin, 620 N.W.2d 287, 290 (Iowa 2000).

Close cases are decided in favor of upholding the validity of the warrant. Id. In conducting our review, we are limited to “that information, reduced to writing, which was presented to the magistrate at the time application for the warrant was made.” Randle, 555 N.W.2d at 668–69.

“Allegations of criminal conduct may be so distant in time as to provide no probable cause for a warrant.” Id. at 670. There is no bright line rule for when evidence of criminal activity becomes stale. Id. Whether information is stale depends on the circumstances of the case. State v. Gogg, 561 N.W.2d 360, 367 (Iowa 1997). Some of the circumstances that are relevant include:

  1. the character of the crime (whether an isolated event or an ongoing activity);
  2. the character of the criminal (nomadic or stable);
  3. the nature of the thing to be seized (perishable, easily destroyed, not affixed and easily removable, or of enduring utility to the holder); and
  4. the place to be searched (mere criminal forum of convenience or secure operational base).

Id. (internal citations omitted).

Iowa Code section 808.3 requires “[t]he application or sworn testimony supplied in support of the application must establish the credibility of the informant or the credibility of the information given by the informant.” A magistrate “must make specific findings that the confidential informant is credible based on one of the following grounds:

  1. the informant has provided reliable information on previous occasions; or
  2. the informant or information appears credible for reasons specified by the magistrate .”

State v. Myers, 570 N.W.2d 70, 73 (Iowa 1997). If the magistrate does not satisfy the requirement, the probable cause determination must be evaluated without reference to the information obtained from the confidential informant. Id.

Search Warrants for the Placement of a GPS Device

In 2014, the Iowa legislature passed House File 475 related to the issuance of a search warrant that authorizes the use of a global positioning device. The new legislation authorized a law enforcement officer to make an application to a judge or judicial officer for the issuance of a search warrant to authorize the placement, tracking, monitoring, or removal of a global positioning device.

The search warrant application for a GPS device must be supported by the peace officer’s oath and affirmation. Also, the search warrant application must include a description of the person, place, or thing to be tracked or monitored by a global positioning device with sufficient specificity.

Upon a finding of probable cause to issue a search warrant, the judicial officer shall issue the search warrant. The search warrant commands the law enforcement officer to place, track, monitor, or remove the global positioning device.

Prior to this new legislation, Iowa law only allowed a special state agent, defined in Iowa Code section 808B.1 as a peace officer of the Department of Public Safety, to make a search warrant application to a judicial officer for the issuance of a search warrant for the placement, tracking, or monitoring of a global positioning device in Iowa Code section 808B.5(12).

Search Warrants in Drug Cases in Iowa

In search warrant applications in drug cases, the officer will often attach an affidavit detailing his qualifications, training, education, and experience in the areas of drug trafficking crime investigation. The affiant officer will often indicate that he is familiar with drug-dealing activity, including the patterns of behavior drug dealers commonly employ, such as driving from location to location while using their cell phones and then meeting with buyers for short periods of time.

In many search warrant applications for drug investigations in Des Moines, Iowa, the officers will also indicate whether a suspect has a prior record for drug crimes or drug trafficking. The Iowa Supreme Court has held that an issuing magistrate may “consider a suspect’s history of involvement in the drug trade.” State v. Padavich, 536 N.W.2d 743, 748 (Iowa 1995).

Finally, the search warrant might seek permission to search or seize the type of evidence kept in drug trafficking cases. In State v. Godbersen, 493 N.W.2d 852, 855 (Iowa 1992), the court noted that “[i]t is reasonable to assume that persons involved with drug trafficking would keep evidence—drugs, weighing and measuring devices, packaging materials, and profits—at their residences.”

If a search warrant was issued in Iowa to search your vehicle, home, or business for drugs or evidence of trafficking drugs, the contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C.. The attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. are experienced in fighting drug trafficking cases in Des Moines, Iowa, involving the execution of a search warrant.