If the police want to search premises, they have to apply to the Magistrates' court for a search warrant.
The Magistrates' court will only grant a search warrant if they believe that the police have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence has been committed, and that the premises needs to be searched as it may contain evidence that will be of benefit or important to a trial.
Once a warrant has been granted officers have three months to carry out the search, unless it is a warrant under the Misuse of Drugs Act where the search needs to take place within one month.
Can the police ever enter a property without a warrant?
Police can enter a property without a warrant if a serious or dangerous incident has taken place. This could include:
- To deal with a breach of the peace or prevent it
- To enforce an arrest warrant
- To arrest a person in connection with certain offences who they believe is in the property
- To recapture someone who has escaped from custody
- To save life
- To prevent serious damage to property
If officers make an arrest they can also enter and search any premises where that person was during or immediately before the arrest.
Where authorised, police can also search any premises occupied or controlled by a suspect without a warrant for certain offences.
They can only search for evidence relating to the offence for which they have been arrested for. The officer who carries out the search must have reasonable grounds for suspecting that there is evidence on the premises relating to the offence or a similar offence.
What the police must do?
When a police officer attends a search, they must provide their identification and a copy of the search warrant so that the person knows what is happening.
They will explain why they want to search the property as well as the rights of the occupier.
Why do police force entry during some warrants?
If officers believe that if they do not force entry the delay could hinder the search, or someone could be placed in danger, they will force entry to the property
Entry can also be forced into the property if the person has refused entry to officers, they cannot communicate with the person inside, there is no one at the property, the property is unoccupied or there are other reasonable grounds.
Can the police seize cash?
Officers can seize cash if they suspect they it has been obtained illegally or if it is evidence needed as part of an investigation.
Amounts over £1,000 can also be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act if it is suspected the cash has been obtained illegally or if it will be used for criminal purposes.
How to make a complaint or seek compensation for repairs
Information will be given at the time of the warrant that provides information if the person wishes to make a complaint or to apply for damages or compensation following the search warrant.
What happens if the police get the wrong address?
If your home has been wrongly searched and damage has been caused then you will be able to apply for compensation. Information on how to do this will be on the form left by officers during the search.
- Find out how to contact us or find your local police station here.
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