Legal Question in Criminal Law in California

A year ago, I installed my giant Liberty safe in my cousin's home. He recently passed away. At his wake, a local police officer noticed the safe and wanted it opened. I told him that it was mine, and did not want to open it. The following week, police show up with a locksmith and force open the safe. There was no warrant, I was not informed of this action, the safe is now empty, and no inventory list was left as to what was taken. To the best of my knowledge neither my cousin or myself are on probation or parole, nor are we suspected of any type of criminal activity. What can I do?

Asked on 6/29/16, 4:16 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

There's probably more to this story. Did your cousin die under suspicious circumstances? Having a safe isn't suspicious on its own. And police officers seldom force their way into safes without permission and/or a warrant.

If your cousin lived with family or roommates, then they may have given the officer permission to open the safe. My guess, though, is that he had a warrant. The police may have well-founded suspicions even if you don't know it, and they would have had to explain and justify those suspicions to a judge in order to get a warrant.

Offhand I'm not sure how much it matters that you'd said the safe was yours, since it had been "installed" in the house. If the warrant allowed the police to search the premises and you live elsewhere, then you likely were not entitled to notice, to an inventory list, or to see the warrant. I would need more information before I could say whether any of your rights have been violated.

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Answered on 6/29/16, 11:22 am

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