Search and Seizure Laws in California

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Search and seizure can happen under certain conditions in California and you should know your rights under these circumstances. If you find yourself in a situation with police that you do not understand, do not answer questions until you can call a defense attorney to come and help you.

When Your Car May be Searched

The police officer may stop you originally for a traffic issue, such as speeding, a broken tail light, or some other incident. The officer is entitled to ask you to get out of the car after the officer has checked your driver’s license and whatever else was asked for. If there is someone else in the car with you, the officer may request the same thing to your friend.

There are reasons for why a police officer may want to check the inside of your car, a police officer may want to search the inside of your car for a few different reasons. While you are innocent and unaware of the circumstances, the officer may ask first for your permission to search the car. You, without thinking that anything could be wrong, give the officer permission to search the car.

If the officer, while searching the car, finds illegal drugs, both of you may be detained and/or arrested and taken down to the police station. Avoid answering any questions until you can call a criminal defense attorney to come and help you.

The attorney has the right to consult with you privately before you answer any questions asked by the police. Your attorney can also find out from the police as to why you were detained or arrested before coming in to visit with you. In this case, the officer asked for permission to search your car, which you gave. That is a plus for you because if you had refused, the officer can also choose to search the car, based on what he knows about your friend, which you do not know.

The officer had probable cause to make the search, knowing what was known about your friend, but you may also have been an accomplice to the crime by being in your friend’s presence. Refusing to let your car be searched, could cast suspicion on you as being a partner in crime.

At Your Home

In most cases, the police at your doorstep should have a warrant to search your home and remove any property, such as illegally-owned firearms and associated ammunition, which must be part of the warrant. In this scenario, you will likely be arrested as well, unless the firearms are tied to someone else who lives there.

Other items that you legally own cannot be removed, unless these items are part of the evidence in a case against you, such as a cell phone, a computer, that may contain evidence against you. This could be in a situation of white-collar crime, messages to a person who was later found dead, or anything that connects you to a crime.

The police may not need a warrant if you, in a fit of anger, took your firearm outside and threatened your neighbor with it because the neighbor’s trash was piled on your side of the fence. Then you went back inside with it. This could be considered ‘an emergency situation which threatens public safety and possible loss of evidence.’

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, call us at once for a consultation. 619-234-2300

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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