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Test of 4th Amendment Protection from Search in Case Being Heard in Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court just heard arguments in the case of Fernandez v. California concerning whether the police can search a leased apartment where one of the co-tenants refused to give law enforcement the green light to search but the other tenant let the police conduct a search. This case revisits the area of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence which has historically held a citizen has the highest expectation of privacy when it comes to his home.

Fruits of a tainted search

In this case, the police got complaints about a domestic violence incident in the apartment in question. When they arrived at the scene, they spoke with the eventual defendant, or alleged perpetrator. He refused to grant the police permission to search the premises but, after he left, the police asked the other tenant who allowed the officers to conduct a search. They then found items which were used to secure a conviction against the defendant. The defendant later sought to suppress evidence found at the scene that was used in the case against him. His attorney argued that such evidence should have been suppressed as being the fruits of a tainted search. Ultimately, that is the central question the justices will have to address.

Determining the scope of the 4th Amendment

The defense will argue that the police could have gone and obtained a search warrant from a magistrate. The advocates for the State of California will argue that, not only is that inconvenient, but also that the other tenant gave permission to search and such should be taken into consideration. What is at stake here is whether the scope of the 4th Amendment continues to apply broadly to the home of a suspect or whether public safety and law enforcement considerations should qualify that protection. The case will have broad ramifications for criminal cases throughout the country as the scope of the 4th Amendment constitutes the basis for evidence suppression issues that recur in criminal litigation regularly.

To schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney who will protect your 4th Amendment rights, contact the Law Offices of Richard Bock.

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