Law enforcement officials may receive tips and information regarding alleged wrongdoing at legitimate business establishments. The purported facts, however, may not justify filing a criminal charge against business owners or their employees.
To uncover evidence of alleged wrongdoing, officials may request a search warrant from a local judge who has the authority to order and sign it. According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, if a warrant is granted, law enforcement may then enter a business to search for and seize items that might prove illicit conduct.
Obtaining a search warrant requires probable cause
A search warrant generally does not prove that an illegal action occurred; it only demonstrates that the information presented may point to possible wrongdoing. To obtain a warrant, an official must show the judge that probable cause exists, such as possible evidence of specific actions or circumstances.
For example, photographs or videos acquired through a hidden mobile device while inside the establishment may display an employee apparently engaged in wrongdoing. The judge may review the material and request witness testimony to determine whether the purported conduct requires a more detailed investigation.
Seizure without a search warrant may violate the U.S. Constitution
After receiving reports of labor violations and human trafficking allegations, officials served 13 search warrants at different Texas massage parlors. As reported by KTSM.com News, officials reportedly retrieved evidence of alleged human trafficking and conducted 25 interviews.
Officials did not make any arrests, but instead gathered supporting materials they believe may help them either file charges or dismiss the case. Without first obtaining a search warrant, however, an investigation and seizure of property may violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment right.