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Illegal Searches in California

The Constitution of the United States protects a person’s right to avoid unreasonable searches and seizures. The government is bound by laws and regulations that prevent the police from searching people without cause. In many cases, police will actually require a warrant to search a person’s belongings or property.

There are, however, exceptions to the rule. In some circumstances, an officer may have the right to search someone without going through the legal hurdles. It is important to know your rights and to know what to do if they have been violated.

When can an officer search me?

In many cases, an officer will need a warrant to search your home or your person. If the police arrive at your home without a warrant and ask if they can search your house, you have the right refuse. If an officer stops you on the street without cause, and asks to see what is in your pockets, you can refuse.

What are the exceptions?

An officer can search your person if you are being legally arrested. If you are arrested, the officer will typically pat you down to determine if you have weapons, sharp objects or anything illegal on your person. If the officer finds something on you during the course of this search, this evidence can be used against you.

An officer can enter your home without a warrant if there is an emergency. For instance, if there was an explosion in your house that could be seen and heard from outside, an officer could enter the premises in order to respond to the emergency and provide assistance to anyone who might have been injured.

Additionally, if the officers have permission to search you or your home, then they can search even without a warrant. If you told officers that they could search your home because you did not know you could refuse, then the officers would have the right to search and could use any evidence that they found to make a case against you. If your house was searched because your spouse agreed to allow the police to enter the home to search, this would not be an illegal search, and any evidence acquired could be used against you.

A new addition to search procedure and law is the inclusion of cellular telephones. With the growth and widespread usage of cell phone technology, it is also important to note that cell phones are not eligible for search without either consent or a warrant.

What if I was illegally searched?

If you were illegally searched, then evidence found against you could be excluded when the state brings charges against you. For instance, if your home was searched illegally, and an officer found drugs in your house and brought drug charges for possession against you, you could have that evidence excluded. If this was the only evidence the police had against you, your case could be dismissed.

It is important to note that you will need to file motions to exclude the evidence. It is best to enlist the assistance of a California criminal defense attorney to do this.

It is important to understand your legal rights and to know if they were violated in the course of a police investigation. If you are facing criminal charges, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn the best way to defend against the charges that you are facing.

Contact Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP at 909-798-3300 for a free consultation with one of our seasoned criminal defense attorneys.

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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.