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Challenge the Illegal Search of Your Vehicle in California

In the criminal defense of drug or gun possession charges in the State of California, it is common practice to challenge the illegal search of the vehicle where the items were found. Frequently, gun and drug charges arise when an individual is stopped in his or her vehicle on a routine traffic stop followed by a search that leads to unlawful possession. Based on California law, felony gun and drug possession charges are serious and can have a wide range of implications for the defendant. The person charged not only faces penalties ranging from court fees to imprisonment, he or she can also face job loss and the loss of state licenses. If you are facing drug or gun charges after a routine traffic stop, the criminal defense attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP can help.

Based in Redlands, CA, Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP are exceptionally experienced in cases involving unlawful searches and seizures. The firm could help you determine whether your case can be dismissed by filing a motion to suppress evidence pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Consider scheduling a free consultation with the firm by calling (909) 894-0812 or complete the private contact form here.

Warrantless Traffic Stop Searches

In many ways, the U.S. Constitution protects individuals accused of crimes. When it comes to the search of a person or his or her property, people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, which is guaranteed to them by the 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Under the state’s Penal Code §1538.5(a), defendants may be able to move to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless or unreasonable search and seizure.

In most cases, the search of a vehicle from a routine traffic stop is made without a warrant. Consequently, a successful defense can be made over the warrantless search. Based on the California Supreme Court in People v. Williams (1999) 20 Cal. 4th, the burden of justifying the search, seizure, arrest, and/or detention without a warrant falls on the prosecution. Defendants have a burden of raising an issue with the unlawful search, and this is usually satisfied when the defendant asserts the absence of the warrant and makes a prima facie showing to support this assertion.

Searching of a Vehicle That Leads to an Arrest

In many cases, the police or prosecution will attempt to justify the warrantless search of a vehicle after a routine traffic stop by making the claim that the search was in fact legal since it was an incident to an arrest. The U.S. Supreme Court has stated that during the arrest or near the time of the arrest, police officers can only search the person within his or her “grabbing area”. When it comes to vehicle searches, courts apply the Belton standard, which states that police officers can only search the defendant’s vehicle when:

  1. There has been a legal custodial arrest of the occupant of the vehicle;
  2. The vehicle’s search is limited to the passenger’s compartments and the objects found there; and
  3. The search is contemporaneous with the defendant’s arrest.

Hire an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is incredibly important. A motion to suppress evidence can make the difference between a reduction of the charges or a dismissal of all the courts. If you or a loved one is facing drug or gun charges after an illegal search of the vehicle, obtain the support of a qualified criminal defense attorney right away.

The criminal defense attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP are exceptionally familiar with the California court system, including local procedural rules. They are also well-versed in criminal case search and seizure cases. Consider contacting the firm today for a free case evaluation. Call (909) 894-0812 or complete the contact form here.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.