Can the police secretly search your home?

Assume they got a valid normal search warrant. They come and you aren’t home, perhaps intentionally. Can they break in, search discreetly, and just leave? Or do you have to be served with the warrant somehow?

Yep. Courts may allow the cops to dispense with advance or contemporaneous notice of a search if the police convince the judge of a reasonable necessity to delay notifying the target of the search; nonetheless, the cops will have to give you notice of the cover entry after a reasonable time (for state cops, see Berger v. New York; for federal cops, see Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41). However, the courts are split as to how long a reasonable time can be: compare, for example, United States v. Freitas, 9th Circuit, 1986 (cops must leave a copy of the warrant and an inventory of things seized); United States v. Simons, 4th Circuit, 2000 (cops permitted not to notify target of search for weeks). But they’ll have to tell you, and probably pretty quickly.

That is, unless you have entered [font=4]The Patriot Act Zone![/font=4]

Section 213 of the Patriot Act covers what are colloquially known as “sneak and peak” warrants. It authorizes delays in notification for electronic searches (think wiretaps and the like) for up to 180 days, or for any reasonable time if the court issuing the warrant believes that notification would have any of the following bad consequences: (1) endangering the life/safety of any individual; (2) flight from prosecution; (3) destruction of evidence; (4) intimidation of potential witnesses; or (5) otherwise seriously jeopardizing an investigation or unduly delaying a trial.

So if the feds are involved, you might not know for quite a while who came in and trashed your place in the middle of the night.

The information I’m stating comes from reading books, I’m not a lawyer. That said, I’m under the impression that that can enter and search, but usually, or perhaps must, leave a copy of the warrent behind.

Under some circumstances I can imagine where a covert search might be performed.

Though I assume you are speaking of a normal court warrant, a FISA warrant can allow them to enter (breaking in covertly if necessary) perform a search, bug your place, and never tell you, even if they don’t have an intention to directly prosecute a crime [to investigate matters related to national security) FISA warrants are never challenged, mostly because the one person with legal standing essentially never learns they were issued, much less executed.

Though the FISA courts were created in the late 1970s, the rate of warrants really exploded in the late 90s. As of the 2001 Annual Report (the last one I’ve read - the 2002 report may have come out by now) only one request for a FISA warrant was ever turned down since the 70’s and even that one was just referred back for re-submission with additional supporting information.

I don’t expect you to believe anything I say about FISA, or any cites I cherrypick. Google FISA courts. I think you’ll find that essentially all the reputable sources agree. You’ll also find thetext of the laws that established them, links to recent Annual reports of the FISA courts, and other official documents hosted on federal sites.

Isn’t the life/safety of any individual always a higher principle than any formal procedure? I do hope I will never hear a cop say to me “Sorry, we knew this would get you hurt, but the rules said we had to inform that guy.” Doesn’t this exception always apply, without being mentioned explicitly, even if it has nothing to do with the Patriot Act, or in any other legislation (I’m European)? At least they would have to take appropriate counter-measures in order to protect me (or whomever). But then again, if these measures are available, the exception does not apply anymore (even if the Patriot Act applies).
Does that make sense to anybody?

There are no rules where the cops are involved , if they want you they will get you.

If they break in in to your house who are you gonna call !

Ghost busters?

Fireball, this forum is for factual answers only. If you don’t have anything other than “Government is bad, cuz they don’t let me keep my pot. The pigs have no rules, they can do anything they want!” then this is not the place to be.