California Law Regarding Search Warrants

The California Constitution and statutory law discus policies and other topics regarding issuing search warrants. Art. I, §13, of the California Constitution, uses language similar to that in the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It states that “a warrant may not issue except on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized.”

California statutes beginning with section 1524 of the Penal Code set rules governing the issuance of a search warrant; the nature of the property to be seized, and the places to be search. Section 1524(a)(1) instructs that property stolen or embezzled is the legitimate subject of a search warrant. Section 1524(a)(2) states the location of property thought used to commit any felony is justification for issuing a search warrant, and Section 1524(a)(4) provides that property or items which comprise evidence that shows that a felony has been committed, or that an identifiable person has committed a felony, are proper matters for a search warrant.

Other property and evidence that is discoverable, and conditions under which a search may be utilized or locations to be searched are descried in the statutory law governing the issuance of a search warrant:

  • Evidence that shows the sexual exploitation of a child, in violation of section 311.3 of the Penal Code or possession of matter depicting sexual conduct of a person under age 18, in violation of 311.11 of the Penal Code,
  • Evidence to support an arrest warrant;[1]
  • Electronic communication records or evidence which shows that a misdemeanor theft, or embezzlement of property exists, and is used to commit a misdemeanor, and shows to whom such property may have been delivered to conceal and prevent discovery;[2]
  • Evidence exists at a location or place that shows a violation of Labor Code section 3700.5 (failure to secure payment of workers' compensation); [3]
  • Property or items exists at a location or place showing a domestic violence incident involving a threat to human life or a physical assault occurred including a firearm or other deadly weapons and are under the control of a person arrested;[4]
  • Property including a firearm or other deadly weapon exists at a location or place owned by, or in the possession or custody of a person suffering from a mental disorder in as described in section 8102(a) of the Welfare Code;[5]
  • Property exists at a location or place including a firearm owned by, or in the possession of a person in violation of an order issued under sections 6389 and 6218 Family Code requiring them to turn in firearms;[6]

Seizure based on tracking devices by police

Evidence revealed from tracking devices can be seized through a search warrant when that evidence shows that a felony or a misdemeanor has been or is being committed, that it shows that a particular person is committing or has committed the felony or misdemeanor, or if the tracking will assist in locating an individual who has committed or is committing a felony or misdemeanor.

Evidence of Driving Under the Influence

When a person is arrested for driving under the influence they are required by law to provide a blood sample. If they refuse to provide one, or failed to complete a test they can be forced to provide a blood sample if supported by a search warrant.

[1] Section 1524(a)(6) of the California Penal Code

[2] Section 1554(a)(7) of the California Penal Code

[3] Section 1554(a)(8) of the California Penal Code

[4] Section 1554(a)(9) of the California Penal Code

[5] Section 1554(a)(10) of the California Penal Code

[6] Section 1554(a)(11) of the California Penal Code