Can Police Search a Wallet Inside a Purse Without a Warrant ?
In People v. Smith (1980) 103 Cal. App. 3d 840, 842-846 163 Cal. Rptr. 322, the court held that a belated, warrantless search of a wallet inside a purse seized from an arrestee at the time of booking violated the Fourth Amendment.
In Smith, the defendant's mother had been arrested and the following day officers searched her belongings in police storage in an effort to ascertain defendant's whereabouts.
The court concluded:
"Since the officer's purpose in inspecting Harris's purse and wallet a second time was to look for at least one item not previously noted (the current address), and items whose evidentiary value had not been previously appreciated (the address and keys), the inspection involved an intrusion into whatever vestige of privacy remained to Harris and thus did constitute a search." ( Id. at p. 845.)