Warrants explained

2015-07-01 06:05


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A POLICE OFFICER recently knocked on my door to tell me that he wanted to search my house after having received information of alleged stolen goods stored inside. When I refused, he said he’d come back with a search warrant. If he does, what do I do? Does he have the right to search my home?


Our law makes provision for police search procedures where the objective of the search is to find a specific person or to seize an article related to the commission or suspected commission of an offence.

Therefore a properly issued search warrant – either (before a criminal trial) by a magistrate or justice of the peace, or (during a criminal trial) by a judge or judicial officer presiding at criminal proceedings X authorises a police official to seize the article and search any person identified in the warrant, or enter or search any premises identified in the warrant and to search any person found on or at such premises.

A search authorised by a search warrant must, however, be done by day, unless the person issuing the warrant, in writing, authorizes the search to be at night.

A search warrant may be issued on any day and remains in force until executed or cancelled by the person who issued it, or if such person is not available, by someone with the same authority.

You can, and should, demand a copy of the search warrant after execution of the search, and then the search warrant has to be handed to you or any person whose rights in respect of any search under the warrant are affected.

Where the person to be searched is a woman, a female police official must conduct the search.

A police official who acts contrary to the authority of a search warrant issued, or who searches a person or premises or seizes an article without the authority to do so, is guilty of an offence. So, should you ever answer the door and be requested permission by police officials to search your property, ask the police officials to properly identify themselves, state the reasons for wishing to enter and search the premises, identify whether they have a search warrant and request a copy thereof. If they can provide the necessary, they are allowed to search your house and you will be unable to prevent it.

) Nicole Tarentaal, candidate attorney, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys

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