What You Need to Know About Search and Seizure Laws in the State of California


Your Fourth amendment rights protect you from unreasonable searches and seizures taken by law enforcement. This implies to searches by state and local police that lead to criminal charges as well as federal law enforcement officials. Police do not have the rights to search you or your property unless one of the following conditions are true. The first is that the search must fall into one of several different exceptions to the warrant requirement that are recognized by California and federal courts.

The second exception is that in situations in which they have obtained a valid search warrant. If you believe that you have been the victim of an unlawful search or seizure by police, then it is imperative that you gather the facts, write down the notes you have from the incident in question and consult with a California criminal defense attorney.

There are certain places and pieces of property in which you would have a legitimate expectation of privacy that can protect you from searches and seizures including a hotel room, your computer, cellphone, and other electronic storage devices, your home and potentially personal property that students bring to school. Courts have ruled however, that individuals do not have a reasonable expectation to privacy when it comes to materials such as the contents of a stolen vehicle, property that you have abandoned, or property inside a vehicle if you are a passenger inside and you do not have any ownership interest in that property or that vehicle.

Although a police officer who presents you with a search warrant will have the right to search you or your property as a result of obtaining that, not all searches and seizures completed with warrants are necessarily constitutional. You may potentially challenge the admission of evidence from a California search even if the search was completed with a warrant if either of the following is true:

  • The search exceeded the warrant scope or yielded evidence other than what was described in the warrant
  • The warrant itself was somehow invalid or defective

If you suspect that you have been the subject of an illegal search and seizure, it is imperative that you consult with a Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Knowing all of the facts and having someone who can develop an aggressive defense for you is strongly recommended.