Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog
     


Arrest Warrants and Illegal Stops

Posted on: December 28, 2008 at 4:32 p.m.

Typically law enforcement must act within the purview of the U.S. Constitution to justify a search of a person, car, or home. Our firm's Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers frequently contest a client's search where we feel the police violated the constitutional requirements. A recent case, however, provides the police a broader basis for searching a car, even though the reason for the stop was illegal where the police are armed with an arrest warrant for the car's passenger.

The California Supreme Court recently concluded that evidence obtained by searching a vehicle after arresting a passenger pursuant to a valid warrant was admissible against the passenger even though the underlying traffic stop that led to discovery of the warrant was illegal.The judges upheld defendant's conviction and four-year sentence for possession and manufacture of methamphetamine.

Defendant was the passenger of a Buick that Sutter County Sheriffs Deputies stopped in 2001 on the basis of expired registration tabs. Although the deputy learned that there was a pending application for the registrations renewal,he directed the driver to pull over in order to investigate the validity of the temporary operating permit taped to the cars rear window. Testimony at a suppression hearing indicated that the deputy approached the cars driver side and asked for the drivers license, and upon recognizingdefendant as a possible parolee at large and verifying that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest, orderedhim out of the car at gunpoint and arrested him for parole violation.

During a search incident to the arrest,the deputyfound an orange syringe cap on defendant, along with drugs and drug paraphernalia on the driver and in the back seat of the car. Defendant moved to suppress the drug evidence, arguing thatthe detention of the Buick and its driver constituted an illegal seizure of his person that tainted all of the subsequently discovered evidence. In denying the motion to suppress,a Sutter Superior Court Judge held thatdefendant was seized not at the point of the traffic stop but rather whenthe deputycommanded him to get out of the car and placed him under arrest.The defendant then pled guilty, subject to his right of appeal, and was sentenced to four years in prison.

The Court of Appeal reversed, reasoning thatdefendant was illegally detained as a result of the traffic stop and the stop itself was unlawful. But the high court, split 4-3, ruled that a passenger is not seized as a constitutional matter following a traffic stop because he or she need not submit to the officers show of authority. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, agreed with the court of appeal, saying no reasonable passenger would have thought himself free to leave under the circumstances.

The case was sent back to the state high court to consider whether there the search was valid based on the existence of the warrant. In a subsequent opinion the court reasoned that Case law from other state and federal courts uniformly holds that the discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant prior to a search incident to arrest constitutes an intervening circumstance that mayand, in the absence of purposeful or flagrant police misconduct, willattenuate the taint of the antecedent unlawful traffic stop.

The Court rejected the contention that allowing the search under these circumstances would encourage the police to randomly stop cars to run warrant checks on the occupants. While a search will not be upheld if it is flagrantly or knowingly unconstitutional or is otherwise undertaken as a fishing expedition, he wrote, here the deputy did not act pretextually or in bad faith. The jurist also emphasized that the search did not take place until after the existence of the warrant had been confirmed.



Tagged as: bench warrants, probation and sentencing laws




Text Messaging as Trial Evidence? Constitutional Right to Privacy Protection

Posted on: August 4, 2008 at 9:18 p.m.

Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys are coming across cell phone and text messaging evidence more and more in court. The evidence connects parties to crimes, established relationships, and provides actual language/conversations between people - without a wiretap order. Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that users of text-messaging services have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of copies of messages the service provider stores on its network.

A three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the Ontario Police Department violated the Fourth Amendment rights of one of its officers and three others with whom he had exchanged text messages on a department-issued pager when it obtained transcripts of the messages from the service provider and reviewed their contents in order to determine whether a monthly overage charge resulted from personal use.The officer

Tagged as: motion to dismiss unlawful police search, probation and sentencing laws




Constitutional Violation? California Criminal Conviction Reversed

Posted on: August 2, 2008 at 1:39 p.m.

A violation of the constitution by law enforcement is remedied in court by the exclusion of the evidence. In other words, the police cannot use the incriminating evidence they recovered if your rights were violated.

A recent case discussed the breadth of police officers' actions in a case involving the seizure of compact discs. The court held that police officers may view content on compact discs obtained by a private party that the private party has seen, but may not open and view additional content without implicating the Fourth Amendment, the Third District Court of Appeal held yesterday.

The court reversed Joseph Michael Wilkinson

Tagged as: probation and sentencing laws




Parole Search of Vehicle's Passenger - Unlawful

Posted on: July 21, 2008 at 6:34 p.m.

A parole search is often used by police officers to justify a warrantless search of a car or home - when they know a subject is on parole. The search does not justify searching someone who is with the parolee, without separate legal justifications. Los Angeles criminal lawyers can file a Motion to Suppress Evidence, pursuant to Penal Code Section 1538.5, to argue to the judge that the stop of a car and/or the search of a house were unconstitutional. A successful motion typically means that the criminal case will be dismissed.

Here is an example of a recent case were the parole search was deemed to be unconstitutional by the Court of Appeal.

A police officer conducting a parole search of a vehicle driven by a male parolee lacked authority to search the distinctly female purse he found on the floorboard of the seat from which the car

Tagged as: probation and sentencing laws




Officers Looking in Your Backyard? Lawful Police Conduct, Court Rules

Posted on: May 27, 2008 at 10:23 p.m.

Another relevant search and seizure case was recently decided by the California Court of Appeal. As discussed in other portions of this Law Blog, a criminal defense attorney brings a motion in court pursuant to Penal Code Section 1538.5 contesting the validity of police conduct. If the defense prevails on the motion, the officer's observation and seizures of evidence are ruled unconstitutional, and the evidence is excluded from court.

This decision clearly helps the prosecutors: a police officer who boosted himself up on his toes in order to see over the defendant

Tagged as: probation and sentencing laws




Emergency Exception: When can police lawfully enter a home without a Search Warrant?

Posted on: April 1, 2008 at 11:41 p.m.

In most instances when the police decide to search a home, the Constitution requires law enforcement to have a preapproved search warrant. A search warrant provides a justification, prescreened by a judge, explaining why the police can invade the privacy of someone's house. When the justification is insufficient, the judge denies the search warrant and the police cannot search with the court's blessing.

Several exceptions exist to the warrant requirement that are frequently litigated by way of Penal Code Section 1538.5 Motions in Southern California courtrooms. These are also referred to as Search and Seizure Motions, or Motions to Suppress Evidence, by Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors. The emergency exception to having a search warrant is one basis law enforcement frequently falls back on to justify the search of a home without a warrant. The basic rule of law is that to justify a warrantless entry by law enforcement in an emergency situation: (1) under the totality of the circumstances, law enforcement must have an objectively reasonable basis for concluding that there was an immediate need to protect others or themselves from serious harm; and (2) the search

Tagged as: federal law and defense, probation and sentencing laws




Car Stop by a Police Officer: Unlawful if License Tag is Valid, which Officer states he did not see

Posted on: January 16, 2008 at 11:09 p.m.

Car stops are a frequent means of police investigation, which lead to arrests for the possession of narcotics, firearms, and other contraband. If the traffic stop is unlawful, the Constitution states that what the police found in the car is not admissible in court, and thus typically the criminal charges of possession are dismissed. A recent California decision further defines the extent of justification officers need for a lawful car stop, and provides an argument for Southern California Criminal Attorneys to suppress improperly obtained evidece.

A recent California Court Of Appeal decision dealt with the issue of a police officer who testified that he stopped a vehicle because it had an expired license tag, and that he didn

Tagged as: counterfeit goods pc 350, dui drunk driving defense vc 23152, probation and sentencing laws




Why did the police officer stop me? Example of a Motion to Suppress under Penal Code Section 1538.5

Posted on: November 27, 2007 at 12:31 a.m.

When an officer approaches you on the street, or knocks on your door at home, does that mean you are not free to leave, and/or that your must allow admission into your home? There are no clear answers and Southern California Criminal Attorneys litigate, almost daily, difficult search and seizure motions by filing Motions to Suppress pursuant to Penal Code Section 1538.5

If the situation is considered a "consentual encounter," under Search and Seizure caselaw interpreting the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, then police officers do not need a reasonable basis or reason to speak to the person, i.e. they are just making "small talk" -- which means that the officer can come up to the person and begin speaking. Of course, if you follow this train of reasoning, the person can just walk away right? Can the person just shut the door in the officer's face? While in theory the answer to both questions is yes, how many times will police officers just let the person walk away, or stand having a door slammed? Probably never. If anything, the police officer will find an articulable basis to "detain" the person, to explain his belief that the person is involved in criminal activity. This reasonable basis is required to justify law enforcement's intrusion on the person's right to privacy under the U.S. Constitution. The greater the intrusion, the greater the need to justify the search and seizure under criminal constitutional law. Thus, police officers entering a person's home requires a much greater level of lawful justification, than detaining someone on the street.

A recent court of appeal decision clarifies further for all criminal lawyers in Los Angeles - what is a "detention" (requiring justifying) under the Constitutional framework, as opposed to a consentual encouter (requiring none). The First District Court of Appear ruling states that a police officer

Tagged as: probation and sentencing laws, violent crimes defense




What rights do you have as a passenger in a vehicle after a traffic stop? Can the police search you, order you to provide identification, or pat you down for weapons?

Posted on: September 6, 2007 at 9:52 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Brendlin v. California (2007) 127 S.Ct. 2400 addressed many legal issues related to what constitutional rights passengers have after a traffic stop.

Assume that the police stop a car for an alleged traffic violation. Obviously, the driver is detained. But what about the passengers? Although it might seem obvious and a simple matter of common sense, a split developed on whether passengers in stopped cars were in fact detained. This is important because if the passengers were not detained, those passengers could not challenge the legality of the traffic stop. So even if the traffic stop turned out to be unlawful, and any evidence related to the driver had to be suppressed, the passengers were fair game and would lose their motions to suppress.

1. Passengers do have a Reasonable Privacy Expectation and have Standing to Challege Unlawful Police Intrusions after a Traffic Stop
Remarkably, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Brendlin and has now issued its opinion, unanimously reversing the California Supreme Court. The holding of the court is that passengers in stopped cars are detained, thereby permitting those passengers the right to challenge the legality of the stop of the car: When a police officer makes a traffic stop, the driver of the car is seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The question in this case is whether the same is true of a passenger. We hold that a passenger is seized as well and so may challenge the constitutionality of the stop. (Brendlin v. California (2007) 127 S.Ct. 2400, 2403.)

The test of whether someone is detained comes from two cases. In United States v. Mendenhall (1980) 446 U.S. 544, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 64 L.Ed.2d 497, the court held that a person is seized if a reasonable person would believe that he or she is not free to leave. This test does not cover all situations, so the court adopted a gloss on this test, in United States v. Drayton (2002) 536 U.S. 194, 202, 122 S.Ct. 2105, 153 L.Ed.2d 242, saying that a person is detained where that person would not feel free to decline the officer

Tagged as: federal law and defense, probation and sentencing laws




Unlawful Police Conduct: Court of Appeals limits law enforcement's justification for searching a suspect after a traffic stop

Posted on: August 28, 2007 at 1 a.m.

A new Ninth Circuit decision will assist Criminal Defense Lawyers in Los Angeles, and Attorneys specializing in Search and Seizure Criminal Law throoughout Southern California.

In United States v. Grigg, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeas ruled last week that police officers may not detain and search a suspect solely to investigate whether the person has committed a minor offense such as a noise violation. The appeals panel held that defendant's Grigg's conviction for possession of an unregistered machine gun must be reversed.

In contrast, the holding in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), permits an officer to stop a person briefly, based on no more than reasonable suspicion that the person has committed a crime. In some circumstances, however, the courts have held that a person

Tagged as: federal law and defense, probation and sentencing laws




Drug Addiction and Criminality: Alternative Sentencing Options

Posted on: June 28, 2007 at 6:20 a.m.

The obvious and sad reality is that addiction often leads to criminal behavior including theft, drug sales, DUI, and other more serious violations. There are numerous drug programs in Southern California, in-patient and out-patient, available to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Often the Criminal Law Blog has used these programs as an alternative to jail or prison for clients in custody, as part of the Alternative Sentecing scheme available under California law which includes Deferred Entry of Judgement, Proposition 36, and Drug Diversion. While keeping clients out of jail is the Law Blog's main objective, we are also concerned about recidivism -- to prevent clients from relapsing and being rearrested. Accordingly, we counsel clients to take their rehabilitation seriously, and to be committed to change with a sponsor, a dedication to the 12-step lifestyle, and seeing a therapist on a regular basis. Finally, the following website provides a good introduction to addiction and treatment information http://web4health.info/

Tagged as: drug addiction and treatment, drug crimes defense, probation and sentencing laws









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