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Can Police Make Up Any Excuse to Search Your Home?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Oct 04, 2019

As everybody knows, your home is your castle and the Constitution, the founding fathers and even the powers that be today, realize that you can't just search a person's home with no probable cause behind it. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.

In other words, you've got to have some information that there's some criminal activity going on inside the home.  The person whose home it is can't just be involved in criminal activity.

The police need that extra step which is, not only is the person involved in criminal activity, but they've got some sort of information, evidence, surveillance or witnesses that are indicating that criminal activity is taking place inside the home so they need to get into the home in order to figure out the criminal activity, seize any illegal weapons, drugs or whatever it is they're looking for related to the criminal activity.

Police Must Have Probable Cause

Without that probable cause that there's criminal activity afoot inside the house, the police can't go in there.  There are some excepts, like if they're chasing a fleeing felon into the house they might be able to get in there.  That would be called exigent circumstances.

Can Police Make Up Any Excuse to Search Your Home?

The best one that they use all the time is if someone is stupid enough to sign a consent form consenting and allowing them to go into the house, that gives them free reign to search everywhere.

It really doesn't make any sense why people do that but I think they get nervous and scared and they feel confronted by the police and they just cooperate.

Why you would cooperate if you knew you had an assault rifle inside the house is beyond me, , or if you knew you had drugs or some other illegal goods in the house, it makes no sense why you would cooperate.

Just don't let them in and they're going to have to get a search warrant.  To get the search warrant, they're going to have to show that there's probable cause.

Motion to Suppress Evidence

I recently had a case where the police were chasing somebody who they saw with a gun.  They searched him into my client's yard.  The person dropped the gun on my client's driveway and ran across the neighbor's yard and out of sight and jumped over a wall.

The police somehow ended up detaining my client who was out in front of his own house and they ended up going into the house and searching it, finding illegal goods and charging my client and seizing money.

We ended up filing a motion at the preliminary hearing to suppress the evidence, under California Penal Code 1538.5, that they found inside the house and the judge granted the motion and the case ended up getting dismissed and the person got the money back that they also seized.

The biggest issue for the judge was, number one, they had the whole perimeter locked down and all they had to do was go get a search warrant and they didn't do that.  Instead, they decided to do what's called a protective sweep and go inside the house to make sure everything was safe in there.

When I had locked in during the preliminary hearing that the person did not run inside the house, that they secured the weapon before they went in the house and they had the whole avenue secured because they were looking for the person that was not my client who had ran from the police with the weapon, so they could have very easily obtained a search warrant if they thought they had probable cause to get inside the house.

By the way, the probable cause they were using is because my client yelled up the driveway at his wife to lock the door and not let anybody in.  Somehow they thought that gave them probable cause to search his house, when really he was just trying to protect his family from the person who had thrown the gun on his driveway.

So, a lot of this stuff is common sense.  The example that I just gave you it's pretty obvious, but there are other cases where it's not as obvious and if you want to assert your rights and do everything you can to get the best result in your case, you're going to need to hire a seasoned criminal defense attorney who's handled cases like yours before and had success.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.