Obtaining Warrants: How Police Do It

By Max Resnik

December 29, 2011 Updated Dec 29, 2011 at 6:47 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Prior to police entering a home for a search, they must obtain a warrant. That warrant can only be requested after police have first established probable cause.

Many readers and viewers have wondered why police did not simply search Michael Plumadore’s home based on their hunch that he was responsible for the disappearance of 9-year-old Aliahna Lemmon.

Plumadore is the man who admitted to police he killed 9-year-old Aliahna Lemmon by repeatedly striking her in the head with a brick on the porch of his mobile home last Thursday morning. Plumadore, according to the probable cause affidavit, told police he then wrapped her body in trash bags and placed her body in his freezer.

From there, Plumadore, according to the probable cause affidavit, told police that later last Thursday night and early last Friday morning, he used a hack saw to cut Aliahna’s body into pieces. Some of her body was placed in freezer bags and taken to a nearby dumpster. He kept her head, hands and feet in his freezer.

Police did perform a cursory search of the mobile home. According to attorney J. Michael Loomis, the cursory search could only allow for police to search anything in plain view if their intention was a search and rescue. More specifically, if police are looking for a live person, they can only search what is in plain view to them without a warrant. Under exigent circumstances, police could bypass a warrant and search anywhere they want.

In order to obtain a search warrant, police must first have probable cause or a reason to believe that someone has committed a crime. That reasoning must then be noted and given to a judge or magistrate who then determines if a warrant will be issued. The judge or magistrate must agree on the probable cause.

Warrants need to be specific according to Loomis. Police need to know exactly what they are searching for and where they plan to search for it as a result of years of case precedence. If police do collect evidence not specified in their search warrant or search an area not specified in their warrant, it could taint the case according to Loomis.

“If those requirements aren’t followed, then you develop what's called fruit of the poisonous tree, which is to say that any evidence obtained as the result of an unlawful search is going to be tainted and by being tainted, possibly may not be able to be admitted into a court of law.”

Loomis says the scrutiny of how evidence has been obtained in Aliahna’s killing and the added pressures of national media attention are just part of the reason that the Prosecutor’s and Sheriff’s Offices have played this case so close to the vest.

Loomis says that despite public outcry from across the nation, Plumadore, as well as every other American citizen, is entitled to their 4th Amendment right to no unlawful search and seizure.

“It’s generally is going to take a search warrant or search warrants to be able to invade that privacy. It's a prohibition that protects persons in their homes from unreasonable action by the government.”




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