CALIFORNIA SEARCH AND SEIZURE LAW
Were you the Victim of an Illegal Police Arrest or Search?
The United States Supreme Court has held that a police officer may only arrest a
person without a warrant: When probable cause exists to believe the person has
committed a felony (Penal Code §836); or when probable cause exists to believe a
misdemeanor has been committed in the officer’s presence, (Penal Code §836);
In Re Thierry S. (1977) 19 Cal. 3d 727.
In the last year the Court has handed down a landmark decision which also
changed the way the police draw blood in DUI cases. A warrant is now needed in
order to take your blood if you do not give consent.
When a detention in a criminal case exceeds the boundaries of a permissible
investigative stop, the detention becomes a de facto arrest requiring probable
cause. The determination of whether a person was arrested or simply detained is
one made by a Judge, not a jury, in criminal cases. The situation often arises in
car stops such as DUI cases, where a police officer will arrest a person without
sufficient probable cause. A Lawyer can fight that arrest.
The California Supreme Court has held that probable cause for arrest exists only
when the facts known to the arresting officer “would lead a man of ordinary care
and prudence to believe and conscientiously entertain an honest and strong
suspicion that the person is guilty of a crime”, People v. Price (1991) 1 Cal. 4th
324, 410. The belief by the police officer must be based on objective facts and
circumstances and not on the personal opinions and suspicions of law
enforcement. See the U.S. Supreme Court case Schmerber vs. California (1966)
384 U.S. 757.
Moreover, the subjective good faith of the Long Beach officer is not enough to
justify an arrest. The validity of an arrest depends upon whether the “facts and
circumstances within the officer’s knowledge and of which they had reasonably
trustworthy information are sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing the
petitioner had committed or was committing an offense” Beck v. Ohio (1964) 379 U.
S. 89 at 91. The probable cause must exist at the moment of police action and not
thereafter in accordance with the United States Constitution.
In many cases, the police officer will "re-write" the facts of the incident in his or her
police report. An experienced long beach criminal defense attorney can often
expose this practice through aggressive cross examination and investigation of the
While in some cases, a particularly experienced police officer may arrest based
upon observations which are meaningful only to him due to his expertise, “it is
incumbent upon the officer to explain the nature of his expertise. . .and how it
bears upon the facts which prompted him to arrest or search.” 3 La Fave, Search
and Seizure, West (1996) §3.2 pp 41-42; Cunha v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal 3d
352. Observations by the police officer are particularly important in drunk driving
cases where signs of impairment are important in determining probable cause for
Determining whether a Long Beach law enforcement officer had probable cause to
arrest requires two analytically distinct steps. First, the Criminal Court must
ascertain when the arrest occurred and what the arresting officer then knew;
second, the court decides whether the officer’s knowledge at the time of the arrest
constituted adequate cause. In Re Justin B. (1999) 69 Cal App 4th 879.
In many cases the arrest may have been unlawful and an Attorney is necessary to
challenge the case in Court. Our Long Beach Criminal Law Firm is very familiar
with the procedures and legal mechanisms that can lead to exposure of illegal
police practices and violations of a client's constitutional rights.
Call attorney Ruff for a discreet consultation of your specific case. It is not
necessary to simply plead guilty in a Long Beach case when your rights were
Call us Toll free 1-877-212-2090
Long Beach Law Office
444 West Ocean Avenue
Long Beach CA 90802