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Search warrants are the police tool for finding contraband in homes

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Fairfax criminal lawyer addresses incriminating home searches

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One may consider his or her house to be her castle, but police often use search warrants and alleged exigent circumstances to disturb our privacy and serenity in that castle.

One such approach is for police to get an excuse to enter a home (for instance claiming to have smelled marijuana in the home after the owner opens the door, or even without anyone’s opening the door), conduct a so-called protective sweep to assure that nobody else is present in the home to be able to disturb any evidence nor harm the police, observe incriminating objects during the protective sweep, and reference those incriminating objects in their application for a search warrant.

Latron Dupree Brown’s plight is the Virginia appellate courts’ latest consideration of protective sweeps and home search warrants. After observing Brown’s drug dealing for three months, police arrested him, conducted a protective sweep of Brown’s apartment before receiving a search warrant (later claiming safety concerns for conducting the sweep, in that Brown was a suspect in a recent shooting), and obtained a search warrant that did not reference any incriminating evidence found in the sweep. Police then executed the search warrant that found incriminating evidence, including “thirty-four ‘knotted baggies of cocaine,’ a knife used for cutting cocaine, a gun and cartridges…” Brown v. Virginia, ___ Va. App. ___ (August 1, 2017).


Brown raised several appellate issues to the Virginia Court of Appeals, including challenging the legality of the protective sweep of his apartment as unlawful under the Fourth Amendment,  arguing that the issuance of the warrant was tainted by the purportedly unlawful protective sweep, and arguing that the evidence found pursuant to the apartment search should have been suppressed under the Exclusionary Rule that applies to Fourth Amendment-violative searches.

Nothing doing, said the Court of Appeals, which found that whether or not the protective sweep was justified, any fruits from that sweep were not mentioned in the police application for a warrant and did not taint the issuance of the warrant. Moreover, the Court points out that the police officer who drafted the warrant application filed it before knowing any information about the results of the protective sweep.

How many people are deluded that stashing contraband in their homes will protect that evidence from police discovery? It is folly to believe so.