Requirements for Search After Arrest in Los Angeles

April 3, 2014

Search After ArrestIn 1965 3 Santa Ana police officers came to home of Mr. Chimel with an arrest warrant for his arrest.  He was at work.  His wife let the police officers in and after about 15 minutes of waiting, Mr. Chimel got home and was arrested.  After arresting Mr. Chimel in his home, the police officers did not leave, but proceeded to Search After Arrest Mr. Chimel’s house without his consent.  During the Search After Arrest the police officers found evidence that was used to convict Mr. Chimel in Orange County Superior Court.  Mr. Chimel appealed his conviction, but both, the California Court of Appeals and the California Supreme Court denied his appeal, holding that Search After Arrest of Mr. Chimel’s house was legal because the search was incident to arrest.  Search warrant was never obtained to search Mr. Chimel’s home.

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed.  (California v. Chimel (1969) 393 U.S. 958).   In its decision the Supreme Court traces history of the “searches incident to arrest” as it developed in the United States.  Contrasting and comparing different cases, the Supreme Court traces history of law development from 1914 case of Weeks,  proceeding to discuss 7 more cases that vacillate between allowing and disallowing searches of arrested person’s surroundings.   The court notes its decision in Terry v. Ohio where “stop and frisk” was permitted only because it was a “protective search for weapons”.   Applying that decision’s rationale, the court permitted search of the person arrested and the area “within immediate control” of the arrested person (meaning an area from which the arrested person might gain possession of a weapon).  Thus, the Supreme Court reversed Chimel’s conviction concluding that the search beyond area “within immediate control” is too broad.

The implication of Chimel’s decisions were huge.  Just think that prior to that decision, if a person is arrested at his home, the police could look anywhere in that house for evidence of any crime.  For example, an LAPD police officer who would follow an impaired driver to his home intending to arrest him for a DUI in Los Angeles while the person is about to enter his home, could, prior to Chimel’s decision, walk into his home and look through drawers hoping to find narcotics or bad checks or any other contraband.  The Supreme Court decision set up constitutional protections that we did not have.   Now, according to Chimel’s court, arrested person can not be searched beyond his reach (so that home or even a trunk of a car belonging to a DUI arrestee can’t be searched!).

Another point made by Chimel is the arrest requirement for a Search After Arrest.   Chimel’s court brought up Terry v. Ohio to illustrate that protective search is permitted but going into a pocket to search for drugs is not permitted. (Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 40).   This point is extremely important in some DUI prosecutions where a driver is not arrested because ambulance takes him to a hospital after an accident.  Using Chimel v. California it is possible to suppress results of a blood test taken from a person after he was taken to a hospital but was never arrested.   Arguments like this are used successfully to suppress results of a blood test and to obtain dismissals of DUI cases.   This clever arguments can be made by skilled DUI attorneys who can work for you if you call us.  You will need help of a drunk driving attorney in Los Angeles to win a case with similar facts.     For a free consultation or just to chat about your DUI case in Los Angeles please contact us directly at (818) 921 7744 .

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