November 27, 2013 By Paul Wallin

Your Search and Seizure Rights Extend to Houseguests – U.S. Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects you from an unlawful search and seizure of your property. Law enforcement must have a valid search warrant as well as “authorized consent” in order to come into your home and search for evidence of a crime.

Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich want to share with you a recent decision in the United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit) which extends your Fourth Amendment rights in the event your houseguest gives consent to a search without your authorized consent.

United States of America v. Omar Arreguin (No. 12-50484, 9th Circuit, November 22, 2013)

Search and Seizure Rights Extend to Houseguests
A recent court decision means your constitutional search and seizure rights extend to houseguests. Call Wallin & Klarich today if you think this ruling can impact your case.

Defendant Omar Arreguin conditionally pled guilty to a federal charge of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. He appealed his conviction in district court claiming the evidence obtained against him was the result of an illegal search and seizure and should have been suppressed under a legal doctrine known as “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The district court denied his motion to suppress evidence of the illegal search. This appeal followed that denial.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents had seized five wrapped bricks of suspected methamphetamine found in a secret compartment of the Defendant’s car after the Defendant’s houseguest permitted the agents to conduct a search of the defendant’s home. The agents did not inquire as to any authority the houseguest might have to consent to a search. Under the agents’ implied threat of referring Arreguin’s wife, an illegal alien, to immigration officials if he did not cooperate, the defendant also gave written consent to the agents to search his property.

However, the higher court determined that it was not “objectively reasonable” for the agents to conclude that the houseguest had authority to consent to a search of the defendant’s home, specifically the master bedroom and master bathroom. Furthermore, the court decided that the government waived any fallback argument of conducting a “protective sweep” and that the “plain view” doctrine does not apply in this situation.

How Did the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal Rule?

The Court held:

[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]“’[a] reasonable person would not presume, without further inquiry, that’ [the houseguest] had joint use, access, or control over the master bedroom and master bathroom area. United States v. Reid, 226 F. 3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 2000). The failure to inquire properly weighs against the government, not Arreguin, because the police are simply ‘not allowed to proceed on the theory that ignorance is bliss’” United States v. Dearing, 9 F.3d 1428, 1430 (9th Cir. 1993).[/quote]

The 9th Circuit reversed the lower court’s denial of the motion to suppress the evidence and returned the case to the District Court with instructions to grant the motion.

Search and Seizure Rights Extend to Houseguests

If you are not under a form of supervision, such as county probation or state parole, your home may not be searched by law enforcement without your consent or without a valid search warrant. Therefore, if a guest in your home consents to a search without your authority, you continue to maintain your Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure.

Call Wallin & Klarich if You Believe You are the Victim of an Unlawful Search and Seizure

If you or someone you care about is facing a criminal charge as a result of a search of your home or property to which you did not give your consent, you must speak to one of attorneys at Wallin & Klarich immediately. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experience successfully representing our clients who have been victims of unlawful searches and seizures.

We may be able to file a motion to suppress the evidence obtained in violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. If successful, this typically leads the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges against you.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich are available 24/7 to make certain all of your constitutional rights are protected. We will evaluate and employ every available strategy that gets you the best result possible in your case.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.

AUTHOR: Paul Wallin

Paul Wallin is one of the most highly respected attorneys in Southern California. His vast experience, zealous advocacy for his clients and extensive knowledge of many areas of the law make Mr. Wallin a premiere Southern California attorney. Mr. Wallin founded Wallin & Klarich in 1981. As the senior partner of Wallin & Klarich, Mr. Wallin has been successfully representing clients for more than 30 years. Clients come to him for help in matters involving assault and battery, drug crimes, juvenile crimes, theft, manslaughter, sex offenses, murder, violent crimes, misdemeanors and felonies. Mr. Wallin also helps clients with family law matters such as divorce and child custody.

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