State Appeals Court Upholds Search of Purse in Home
Earlier this year, the Second District Court of Appeal in Ventura upheld the search of a woman’s handbag in an apartment she shared with a male probationer. The Fourth Amendment offers protection against unreasonable searches and generally requires probable cause and a warrant in order to conduct a search. However, the courts have long held that there are many exceptions to the warrant requirement. If a person is on probation, police may search any areas of his or her home where there is “joint control or access.” In this case, the search turned up incriminating evidence against the woman in the home, who was not on probation at the time, and therefore – under ordinary circumstances – not subject to a warrantless search.
In 2011, an Oxnard policeman went to the apartment of Ronald Williams, who was on probation and subject to routine searches without a warrant. The door was answered by Brandi Ermi, Williams’ girlfriend, who shared the apartment with Williams and their son. Williams came out of the apartment, and the officer proceeded to the bedroom, where he saw a tan purse sitting on a chair. Ermi stated that the purse was hers, but the officer checked the contents anyway. In the purse was a makeup bag containing a vial of methamphetamine and a smoking pipe. Ermi was arrested and charged with drug possession. After her challenge of the search was unsuccessful, she plead guilty to drug possession and was sentenced to probation.
The court ruled 3-0 in favor of upholding the search. Justice Kenneth Yegan stated, “To rule otherwise would enable a probationer to flout a probation search condition by hiding drugs in a cohabitant’s purse or any other hiding place associated with the opposite gender.” He further asserted that, “Persons who live with probationers cannot reasonably expect privacy in those circumstances.” The full opinion of the court can be viewed here.
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyers Fighting Unreasonable Search and Seizure
If you are arrested for drug possession or any other crime, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. In Southern California, contact the Law Offices of Sef Krell in Encino for immediate assistance.