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When Can Police Search Your Property for Drugs in California?

 Posted on December 23, 2021 in Criminal Defense

CA defense lawyerCalifornia is known for its progressive drug policies. It was the first state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in 1996. However, the possession, manufacture, and sale of controlled substances are still penalized harshly by California courts. Often, drug charges result from a search of the defendant’s personal property. For example, drug possession charges may result from a traffic stop during which police search the inside of the driver’s car. If you or a loved one are facing drug charges after a police search, it is very important to understand the difference between a lawful search and an unlawful search.

Police Usually Need a Search Warrant to Search Your Home

The U.S. Constitution protects us against unreasonable police intrusion. Law enforcement and other government officials cannot search a person or their possessions without a valid reason. Police usually need a search warrant to search a residential property such as a house or apartment. A judge issues a search warrant when there is probable cause that criminal activity or evidence of a crime exists in the home.

Police may conduct a search of a residential property without a search warrant in certain circumstances. For example, police may not need a search warrant if:

  • The property occupant or owner gives police permission to search
  • The search takes place in conjunction with an arrest
  • There are illegal items in plain view of police
  • The search is needed to prevent someone from getting injured

Vehicles Fall Under the Automobile Exemption

According to federal law, individuals have a greater expectation of privacy in their homes than they do in their vehicles. Cars, trucks, vans, and other automobiles fall under the automobile exemption. This means that police do not need a search warrant to search your car. However, they do need “probable cause” or a reasonable belief that illegal activity is taking place. Police may also conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle if the driver is arrested or illegal items are in plain view.

Evidence Obtained in an Unlawful Search is Inadmissible in Court

If police conduct a warrantless search and do not have probable cause or another legal reason for conducting the search, the evidence they obtain may be suppressed. For example, if police find drugs in your car but there was no probable cause for the search, the drugs may be inadmissible in court. Criminal charges that hinge upon evidence obtained in an unlawful search may ultimately be dismissed.

Contact a San Jose Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one were charged with a drug offense after a police search, contact Santa Clara County criminal defense attorney Cory Fuller for help. Call 408-234-7563 for a free, confidential case assessment.



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