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Protecting Against Illegal Searches and Seizures in California

A search and seizure is a common tool used by law enforcement agencies across the nation in an effort to obtain evidence to support a criminal case. When a police agency, or representing agent, suspects an individual of a crime, the agency will likely wish to search the individual’s personal property in an attempt to obtain evidence relating to the crime. Commonly searched elements may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Vehicles,
  • Personal computers,
  • Personal phones,
  • Residence,
  • Trash, and
  • Other property that could be connected to the suspect.

State and National Laws That Could Protect You

The right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure is a fundamental ideology stated in the United States Constitution. Defined in the Bill of Rights, a police agency must obtain a search warrant before searching or seizing a person’s property. The State of California has enacted similar rights defined under the Article I, Section 13 of the California Constitution.

These outlined provisions are inherently designed to place a limit on the government’s authority and control over the nation’s citizens. Fundamentally, every person has a right to expect privacy from government agencies in specific places and/or situations. Consequently, policing systems must provide a legitimate reason for intruding on a person’s privacy. In a legal perspective, this legitimate reason is known as a probable cause in order to search and/or seize an individual’s property.

Lack of Formal Procedure

When a policing agency has searched or seized a person’s property without meeting a warrant’s requirements or without first obtaining a search warrant, a judicial court may decide that the constitutional rights of the suspect have been violated. The lack of formal procedure will likely hinder the prosecutor’s ability to move forward with the charges placed against the suspect due to the inability to use any evidence found in the case.

Understanding When a Warrant is Necessary

Police agencies are required to obtain a search warrant from a qualified judge when there is an expectation to privacy rights in the location or property being searched. The following are common elements the general public has an expectation to privacy and are thereby likely to demand a search warrant from an agency:

  • Electronic devices,
  • Residence,
  • Bags carried by the suspect, and/or
  • Vehicle

In some cases, an agency may ask the suspect to consent to a search in an effort to avoid obtaining a warrant. Generally, people are not required to consent to the search of their property. Most people have the legal right to ask the agency to obtain a search warrant in order execute the search.

Not Every Search and Seizure Will Require a Warrant: Obtain Legal Support

The law surrounding searches and seizures is ever changing and there are exceptions to the demand for a search warrant. It is important that a criminal defendant seek the legal support of an experienced criminal defense attorney that could help to determine if the defendant’s rights were violated. A knowledgeable attorney can help the criminal defendant if a warrant was required for the specific circumstance.

The criminal defense attorneys at Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP., have extensive experience in dealing with search and seizure violations in the State of California. They are a diligent team of attorneys, dedicated to preserving the rights of their clients.

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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.