Can police break open my safe to search it if the search warrant doesn't specify it?
3 attorney answers
Probably so. If the search warrant was validly obtained, reasonably served, and indeed includes “illegal drugs” as items to be seized, then the police serving the warrant can search anywhere that drugs may be reasonably stored – including a locked safe. For comparison, if the warrant listed only “stolen cars” as items to be seized, it would not be reasonable to search a locked safe. However, as you can tell from above, the warrant must be validly obtained and reasonably served. Often, this is the basis for legally attacking the warrant. The requirements for a validly obtained warrant are complex. If you are facing criminal charges, you should consult with an attorney to review the specific facts of your case as soon as possible.
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Not sure if you are just planning ahead or if there was a search resulting in an arrest. Most likely the scope of any search warrant would include a safe, despite it being specifically mentioned in the warrant.
If they had a valid search warrant to search the house, then the police may search anywhere in the house including a locked safe. You'll want to bring this up with your lawyer if you are arrested so he or she can look at it more closely.... The law allows a search warrant to be very broad. If the warrant specifically limited the areas of the home (for example it said "search only Bob's bedroom") then that would be different. A lot of these drug search warrants allow police to look ANYWHERE on the property where drugs could likely be hidden. Since drugs can be hidden in very small places, that pretty much gives them the right to look anywhere. A safe is part of the house whether bolted down or not.
As far as the issue of forcing open the safe, they may do that. Whatever they find in the safe -even if unrelated to drugs- is admissible against you. For example, if the police found illegal guns or stolen jewelry that would all be admissible. But since I don't know how the warrant was created or executed, I can't give a definite answer. You should have a lawyer look at how the warrant was obtained. It must have been based upon probable cause.
Finally, you should NEVER answer questions from the police. You should invoke your right to silence by saying "I don't want to answer any questions, and I wish to speak to an attorney." That's two things: (1) you're going to refuse questioning and (2) tell them you want a lawyer. Always be respectful and show them your ID or SSN if requested during arrest and booking - but other than that just don't answer questions. Be aware of jailhouse inmates who extract information from you, too.
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