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Are Your Guests Safe from a Warrantless Search and Seizure?


Early in May, in People v. Magee, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District, ruled that a defendant does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a friend’s home if that defendant is only in the home as a means to evade the police.

Police officers pursued the defendant after observing what they believed was a drug deal occurring in an area notorious for narcotics and trafficking. The defendant ran into a home owned by defendant’s friend. Officers chased the defendant into a locked bathroom of the home where they claim the defendant flushed cocaine down the toilet. The defendant was ultimately charged with possession of cocaine and other offenses.

The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling to suppress the evidence from the locked bathroom. The Court wrote, “Although a regular guest…may well have a legitimate expectation of privacy during a social visit, that does not mean that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable the privacy expectation defendant claims here: an expectation that his ongoing social relationship with the residents of the…house meant that he could use the house as a sanctuary to escape contact with the police.”

The judges suggested that pursuant to the Fourth Amendment search and seizure law, social guests enjoy a reasonable expectation of privacy in homes where they are guests, but only when the purpose of their visit is for “socializing.”

People v. Magee: Reasonable Expectation of Privacy of House Guests

Scott Hughes is a criminal defense lawyer in Orange County, California practicing in State and Federal Court.

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