A Long Beach Juvenile Attorney Discusses Illegal Search Motions

When a juvenile wishes to challenge a search of her or her property in Court the proper vehicle for this is called a motion to suppress.  Motions to suppress evidence based on unlawful search and seizure apply in delinquency proceedings because, generally, a child has a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.  These motions must be heard before the attachment of jeopardy and at least five judicial days after the prosecutor receives notice.   If the juvenile court judge grants the motion to suppress, it must dismiss all counts except those on which the prosecutor chooses to proceed without the suppressed evidence.  Suppression motions under Pen C §1538.5 are not applicable to juvenile delinquency cases.  After evidence has been suppressed, the prosecution is bound by that suppression order in subsequent proceedings; at that point, it may either proceed with the jurisdiction hearing without the evidence or have the case dismissed and appeal the dismissal. One local Long Beach Juvenile Attorney points out that Pretrial writ review is not available to challenge a ruling on a suppression motion in juvenile court.  The ruling may be appealed, however, by the child  and by the prosecution even if the ruling results in dismissal of the petition or of some of the counts.

There are some major differences between search and seizure standards applicable to adults and those applicable to children, particularly on school grounds. Although the Fourth Amendment applies to searches by school authorities, school searches can be conducted on less than probable cause.  Indeed, New Jersey v T.L.O. applies to a school official’s search of a student’s belongings whether or not the police have been involved. In re K.S. (2010) 183 CA4th 72, 83−84,  School officials may stop a student in order to ask questions or conduct an investigation even in the absence of reasonable suspicion, if the authority is not exercised in an arbitrary, capricious, or harassing manner. In re Randy G. (2001) 26 C4th 556, 567. A police officer assigned to a school on a temporary basis is a school official for Fourth Amendment purposes. In re William V. (2003) 111 CA4th 1464, 1467. And  according to one Juvenile Lawyer in Long Beach, peace officers may take a child into temporary custody without a warrant with reasonable cause for belief that the child is described by Welf & I C §601 or §602. Welf & I C §625(a). A mother may have authority to consent to a search of a child’s room over the child’s objection, although she did not spend much time in the room. In re D.C. (2010) 188 CA4th 978, 986−987.

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