The Difficulties Under a Search and Seizure Warrant in California

The Difficulties Under a Search and Seizure Warrant in California

If a warrant is drawn against you and your property regarding a certain case, the warrant should state exactly what is to be seized from that property. In a recent case of Jessop and Ashjian (Appellants) v. City of Fresno (Appellees), No. 17-16756, a claim was made by the plaintiffs that police stole more assets from the property of Jessop and Ashjian than was listed on the final inventory sheet provided to them at the end of the seizure.

The case was entered under a Civil Rights violation of both the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments where the Appellants declared that aside from the listed assets, worth $50,000, the city police had also allegedly absconded with $151,380 in cash, along with $125,000 in rare coins which were not listed. However, the Appellants could not clearly establish that the officers had committed this alleged theft.

The Warrant

In brief, the warrant notes that a seizure takes place of “all monies, negotiable instruments, securities, or things of value furnished or intended to be furnished by any person in connection to illegal gambling or money laundering that may be found on the premises…”

While the City Police did as they were asked to do in the warrant, the problem lay in what happened to the cash and the rare coins, as defined by the Appellants claim. The City Officers claimed qualified immunity in response and the court agreed, dismissing the Civil Rights case.

It might be presumed that such valuable assets be kept in a bank safe deposit box

As noted in the conclusion, the court sympathized with the Appellants, re-stating however, that there were other options for the Appellants to use, such as the California tort law, rather than the term of Civil Rights violations.

The Issues

  • Argument One

The most important part of this situation is proving that the Appellants ever had that amount of cash and the rare coins at that property. It might be presumed that such valuable assets be kept in a bank safe deposit box (see below), which would require a separate warrant to get that out and be listed as part of assets for the case.

  • Argument Two

These items could have been stolen earlier by another person with access to that property without the Appellants ever realizing those assets were gone before the City Police ever got there. This would be one reason why the City Police receive immunity during such situations so as to not be accused of theft of assets that are already missing or never existed.

The Cautionary Tale

Should you ever suspect that you might be subject to a search and seizure warrant or judgment, it is your in your interest to secure smaller objects, such as heirloom jewelry, rare coins collections, home and business inventory records, deeds, titles, stocks and bonds, passports, and other personal items, in a place that is safe from regular access. These you can put in a bank’s safe deposit box which would require a separate warrant or judgment for access by any government agency.

Alternatively, use a fireproof safe that is bolted to the floor at your property to secure loose cash for ready access, valuable documents such as paperwork for wills, trusts, health directives, and jewelry often accessed for wearing. Should these items be requested per the warrant, you can film the items as they are removed.

If you think you will have a search and seizure warrant placed on your property, call us at once for a consultation on what you need to know. 619-234-2300

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