California Search And Seizure Laws

California Search And Seizure Laws

by Jun 25, 2019

The Fourth Amendment protects United States citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures” without probable cause. This applies at both the federal and state level, and it means that the police my not search you or your property without a warrant issued by a judge.

This law is the same in all fifty states, including California. However, there are some important exceptions to the law that you need to be aware of.

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Search And Seizure Warrant Exceptions

There are different types of search and seizure exceptions. The type of exception that is applicable depends on the type of property being searched. This means, for example, the exceptions for searching your cellular phone are different from those for searching your car.

With that said, there are some general exceptions to the warrant requirement that apply in most cases. This includes:

  • Searches and seizures done with someone’s voluntary consent
  • Searches and seizures incident to a lawful arrest. This is when police are looking either for weapons that might be used against them or for criminal evidence that might otherwise be destroyed
  • Inspection searches, such as those at international borders
  • Searches of vehicles when police have “probable cause” to believe the vehicle contains evidence about a crime. This is known as the “automobile exception” to the warrant requirement.
  • Searches of obviously incriminating items that are in “plain view” while law enforcement is conducting an otherwise lawful search
  • Searches and seizures in emergency situations that are necessary to prevent physical harm, serious property damage, or to locate a fleeing suspect
  • The “stop and frisk” of a criminal suspect while they are being temporarily detained to look for weapons that might be used against an officer
  • Searches in situations where individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy

While it may seem like there are a lot of exceptions to California search and seizure laws, the reality is that unless you’re caught doing something illegal or suspicious, the police have no right to search you or your property.

Defending Against Illegal Searches And Seizures

The reason it’s so important to be aware of the laws against illegal searches and seizures is that any evidence collected during one can be excluded in your court case.

If you believe the police conducted an illegal search of your person or property to collect evidence against you, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. To get help with your case today, please contact our offices.


At Quinnan Law, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 540-2356.

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