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Murder Conviction Reversed: Illegal Search & Seizure Results

California v. Rorabaugh Docket: C090482 (Third Appellate District), Opinion Date: January 25, 2022. When executing a search warrant at defendant Donald Rorabaugh’s home, police learned that one of his cars was a short distance away, at a ranch. Police went to the ranch and towed the car away to be stored until they could obtain a warrant to search it. Later, the trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found in the car. In closing argument to the jury, the prosecution argued DNA evidence found in the car corroborated its theory of defendant’s culpability for murder. After the jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder, the trial court imposed a term of 25 years to life in prison. On appeal, defendant contended the trial court erroneously denied: (1) his suppression motion; and (2) his motion for acquittal. The Court of Appeal agreed with defendant’s first claim, but disagreed with his second. The Court found police violated the Fourth Amendment when they conducted a warrantless seizure of defendant’s unattended car on private property. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court’s failure to suppress evidence obtained after a search of the car was prejudicial error. Accordingly, the Court reversed defendant’s conviction and remanded for further proceedings. #illegalsearchandseizure #fourthamendment #dnaevidence

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