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What is a Police Raid?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A police raid is a law enforcement action on a home or business suspected of involvement in criminal activity. Police will select an unusual time of day, and rely on the element of surprise to collect evidence and arrest suspects before people have a chance to conceal or destroy materials of interest. The law about police raids varies between nations. In some countries, police must apply for a warrant, and in others, they may be allowed to take action without one.

Dawn or the period shortly before dawn is a popular time for a police raid on a home, as the people in the home may be asleep or just waking up, and are likely to be disoriented and more compliant. Police can also raid homes in the middle of the night to startle people. With businesses, law enforcement may monitor the business to determine the best time to take action. Often, the raid involves cooperation between police and other law enforcement organizations.

Police usually must take precautions to protect health and safety when they conduct a police raid. This can start with cordoning off the area to keep bystanders out, and approaching the door to ask people to surrender to police before taking more aggressive action like using flash bang grenades to temporarily incapacitate people. The police need to quickly secure the area once they enter to protect their safety, as well as that of the surrounding community.

In a police raid, law enforcement officers commonly collect substantial evidence from the site. The warrant can include a specific mandate to collect particular things like computer hard drives, and police may interpret the warrant as liberally as possible so they can collect anything that may be related to criminal activity. The police can have warrants for the arrest of some of the people in the building, and also have the power to arrest people who interfere with the raid in some way. Vehicles to safely transport evidence and suspects are a necessary part of the raid.

Police raids can be controversial in nature. If people are injured or killed, complaints of police brutality are common. Some people suspect police are more likely to raid particular populations, like people of color or people known for political activism, and argue that a police raid can be an intimidation tactic. Having a clear mechanism for requesting warrants and handling the raid can help to address these public concerns by making sure the police use standard procedure at all times.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon312317 — On Jan 06, 2013

@amypollick: Thanks for the info and taking the time to respond.

By amypollick — On Jan 05, 2013

@anon312149: An attorney could probably give you better answers, but I do know orchestrating a raid depends on what law enforcement is looking for and what kind of charges the D.A. expects to come out of the raid. A judge would have to issue a search warrant outlining what the police would be looking for, in any case.

For example, if the police suspect someone inside the company was selling drugs, it would be more focused, and probably handled by local law enforcement. If they thought someone at the company was a front for a multi-state drug ring, that would almost certainly garner FBI involvement, and a warrant signed by a federal judge.

Sure, raids can be called off. The agency in charge of executing the raid would just notify personnel the date or time, etc., had been changed.

A large-scale raid is generally a project planned by numerous agencies, again depending on what they're looking for and whose jurisdiction they are in. It's a complex issue and you probably need to talk to an attorney or someone in law enforcement who understands all the logistics.

By anon312149 — On Jan 05, 2013

Thanks for the info. I just have a few questions about this topic.

What is the standard procedure for approving, organizing, and executing a raid on a corporation or corporate office?

Who approves these raids and what is the typical chain of command look like? For instance, does the District Attorney or one of their officers need to be involved and give approval?

Is it possible for a raid to be called off? If so, how might the department go about doing that and who has the authority to call the raid off once it's started?

Are U.S. Marshals the main enforcement arm used to execute a raid? Why?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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