In California, residents are protected from illegal search and seizure under both federal and state law. Most notably, the Fourth Amendment restricts the power of law enforcement to:
- Make arrests
- Conduct searches
- Seize property
It is important to understand what rights you have as a California resident and what the law is saying. Essentially, citizens cannot be subjected to the unlawful search and/or seizure of their things. However, there are certain situations where the police may legally conduct a search.
Police may be able to search or seize your property in situations including:
- Law enforcement possesses a valid warrant
- You have given consent for a search
- Probable cause for a search exists
- A person has no reasonable expectation of privacy
While the regulations listed above will apply in most cases, there will always be exceptions. For example, the laws which dictate when law enforcement can search a suspect’s cellphone can often differ. Additionally, the police may be able to legally perform searches on travelers who are entering or exiting the country. It is also important to note that non-governmental personnel, such as private security, can be subject to different laws.
The Fourth Amendment typically only protects citizens when they have a “reasonable” expectation of privacy. This means that when you secure items away in areas that you control, such as your house or the trunk of your car, police cannot search it without cause.
However, if you are in a public area, you and your property may not be afforded the same protections. For example, if you are in a library and a security camera records an illegal act, this may be used as evidence as no expectation of privacy existed.
What Happens If Evidence Was Illegally Obtained?
The police, just like the public, must obey the law. When it is found that property was illegally obtained or that law enforcement did not follow the correct procedures, the evidence may be excluded from use in a criminal case. This is known as the exclusionary rule and was nationally established in 1961.
Additionally, any evidence which was derived from the illegally obtained evidence may also be subject to exclusion from use in court. When the evidence in question is central to a prosecutor’s argument, it can completely change the course of a case.
Recent Updates to California State Law
This past September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a civil forfeiture reform bill into law aimed at providing Californians further protection against the seizure of their property. California mandates that a person must be convicted of a crime before property believed to be related to that crime may be seized. Until recently, these protections did not always apply on the federal level. The Bill, SB 443, will now require a criminal conviction in federal cases before civil forfeiture, also known as “Equitable-sharing” can be used to seizure property valued at under $40,000. The law also raises the state threshold from $25,000 to $40,000. The law will go into effect next year.
Facing Criminal Charges? Call (800) 860-1383
If you have been accused of a crime or you believe that you have been subjected to unlawful search and seizure, the Law Offices of David M. Wallin would like to hear your story. Whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, our Palmdale criminal defense attorneys possess the knowledge, skill, and resources to maximize the strength of your defense. When your future is on the line, contact our firm and put more than 40 years of combined experience to work for you.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
In some cases, police officers do in fact act outside of what they are permitted. If that has occurred in your case, it is important to uphold your constitutional rights. Evidence gathered from an illegal search and seizure can put you in a difficult position legally. If this evidence was obtained illegally, however, it will likely be considered inadmissible in court. Make sure you adequately protect your rights by retaining the legal services of our team.
Speak to our attorneys in a free consultation and discover your legal options.