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Illegal Vehicle Searches in California


The police have been searching cars illegally now for years.  Usually, you have to get a warrant to search anybody — their person, their home, their car — but they’ve carved out all these exceptions.  They’ve come up with all of these exigent circumstances and it’s really carved up people’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

To give readers a better understanding about illegal vehicle searches, our California criminal defense attorneys are providing an overview below.

Warrantless Search of Vehicle

A new case just came out called People v. Lopez, that basically says the police cannot go back into somebody’s car without their consent to get their information, like their driver’s license, their insurance information or their registration.  So, this case has really been very helpful in the big scheme of things related to trying to block all of these illegal searches.Illegal Vehicle Searches in California

One thing the police were doing is, they would pull somebody over.  They’d order the person out of the car and they’d say the reason they’re ordering the person out of the car is for officer’s safety, so they’d win that one every time, especially when people are stupid enough to have tinted windows of their car and they can’t see in there.

So, now they’ve got the person out of the car.  Now they’re going to say we need to go and get the person’s registration or insurance information because most people don’t carry that information in their pocket.

So, that pretty much carved out a situation where they could always go in there and search — even if the person didn’t consent to it — because they’re going to say we need the registration. We need the insurance information and sometimes people are dumb enough to leave their license in there.

Now they’re going to go in and get that and they’re not going to let the person go in and get it because they’re going to make a claim or an argument that the person may go in and get a weapon.

So, for our officer’s safety, they’ve got to go in and get it.  They’ve been doing that.  The case that allowed them to do that was In re: Arturo, but now that People v. Lopez has been passed, it says no they can’t do that.

Motion to Suppress Evidence in California

So, I’ve got a couple of cases pending right now.  I’m going to be filing 1538.5 Penal Code Motions, basically making the argument the police should not have been allowed to go in and search my client’s car unless the person consents.

This is where a lot of people get tricked into doing — or they have some other reason like they can see a gun or some sort of illegal contraband in plain sight, then they might be able to get in there, but now they can’t just get in anymore just to go in after the information. So, that’s one nice weapon that has been taken away from the police and given people access to more Fourth Amendment rights.

Another area that I’m seeing where you have a lot of good arguments on is, they used to be able to get into people’s cars every time they smelled Marijuana.  They can’t do that anymore.  Marijuana is now legal in California, so just because they smell it, that does not give them the ability to go into somebody’s car.

In other words, it’s not contraband anymore.  It’s legal to have Marijuana so why should they be able to go in the car and search the car just because they can smell Marijuana.  So, this is another weapon that has attacked the police’s ability to search somebody’s car.

Don’t Give Police Consent to Search Vehicle

The best friend of the police in car searches is consent.  People give consent all the time.  The police sale hey, you don’t mind if we search your car?  Sure, go head.  People are telling them they can search your car when they know they have a gun it, when they know they have drugs in it, when they know they have some other illegal contraband in there.

The answer should be no every time.  Don’t let them search your car.  A lot of these guys have bodycams on now so a lot of times we can see that the police are cheating.  They’re searching people’s cars.  They’re not getting consent.  They’re going in just to do a fishing expedition to try to find something.  This is not permissible in criminal defense.  You can’t just search a person’s car for any reason.

So, if your car has been illegally searched and they’ve got some stuff against you and are trying to use it, come to an attorney that knows how to challenge these searches effectively.

Hedding Law Firm is a criminal defense firm located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County at 16000 Ventura Blvd #1208 Encino, CA 91436. We are also located at 633 West Fifth Street Los Angeles, CA 90071. Contact us for a free case evaluation at (213) 374-3952.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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