Contact Us for a Free Consultation 714-721-4423

Understanding Criminal Procedure and Improper Searches in California

What is an Improper Search in California ?

An improper search in California is an illegal search that violates an individual's constitutional right to privacy. 

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement in places where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes their residence, property, and body, as well as specific areas of a motor vehicle (such as a locked trunk), and certain public places (for example, a public restroom stall). 

For a search to be reasonable, and therefore proper:

  • Police must have probable cause to believe incriminating evidence exists and they obtain a search warrant from a judge, or
  • The circumstances make it lawful for police to conduct a search without a warrant. 

A court can suppress evidence found during an improper search, meaning it cannot be used against you during your trial. Experienced criminal defense attorney Richard Wagner will examine your case and determine whether your rights were violated. Call today at 714-721-4423 to schedule a Free Consultation.

Proper versus Improper Searches in California

A court will consider several factors when deciding whether a search was conducted properly.

Proper Searches

A proper, or lawful, search is conducted

  • Under a proper warrant;
  • Without a proper warrant but where the police believe in good faith there is a lawful basis for the search–the “good faith exception.” (For example, if the police rely in good faith on an invalid search warrant and otherwise behave properly during the search.)
  • Where the circumstances mean a warrant is not required

Situations that do not require a warrant include where:

  • Police search a person after a lawful arrest
  • Police search a vehicle after a lawful stop
  • There is a risk that incriminating evidence may be destroyed or concealed
  • A person is briefly held for investigation during a “stop and frisk” 
  • The search relates to a person the authorities are in “hot pursuit” of
  • The person being searched or the property owner consents to the search 

In these situations, law enforcement can conduct a proper search without a warrant. 

Improper Searches

An improper, or unlawful, search occurs when:

  • The police conduct a search without a warrant in circumstances where a warrant is required
  • The police conduct a search under an improper warrant and the good-faith exception does not apply
  • The search is conducted in a way that violates a person's reasonable expectation of privacy

If these circumstances exist, a criminal defense attorney may file a motion with the court asking it to find the search improper and apply the exclusionary rule. 

An Improper Search and the Exclusionary Rule

The exclusionary rule prevents the government from relying on evidence obtained as a result of a violation of an individual's constitutional rights. It means that any evidence found in the course of an improper search cannot be used as evidence against a defendant during a criminal trial. 

When to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer in California

If the prosecution is relying on evidence found during a police search, you should ask experienced criminal defense lawyer Richard Wagner to review your case. Attorney Richard Wagner can advise you whether the correct search and seizure procedures were followed. 

If your constitutional rights have been violated by an improper search, our defense lawyers can help you argue that the evidence found during the search should be suppressed at your trial. If successful, this may weaken the prosecution's case against you and help you defend the charges. To learn more, you it is highly recommended that you contact The Law Office of Richard Wagner today by calling 714-403-6317or submitting an online form today and schedule a Free Consultation.

Contact Richard Wagner Today

Irvine Office
7700 Irvine Center Drive, Suite 800
Irvine, CA 92618
714-721-4423
Rancho Cucamonga Office
9431 Haven Avenue
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
714-403-6317

Menu