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Horton v. California

The Crime And The Evidence

The treasurer of the San Jose Coin Club, Erwin Wallaker, was robbed one day after returning from the club's yearly show. Armed with a machine gun and a stun gun, the two attackers approached Wallaker in his garage and stunned him using the electrical shocking device. Then they tied and handcuffed him, before stealing his cash and jewelry. While investigating the armed robbery of the San Jose Coin Club's treasury, Sergeant LaRault found probable cause to search Terry Horton's home for the stolen property and weapons used in the crime. The warrant the officer obtained to search his home, however, specified searching only for stolen property. When the officer executed the search warrant, he discovered weapons used in the robbery--an Uzi machine gun, a .38 caliber revolver, and two stun guns--in plain view, but no stolen property. The officer confiscated the weapons as well as a few other items, including clothing described by Wallaker, a handcuff key, and an advertisement for the club's show.

LaRault testified that in addition to looking for the stolen property specified in the warrant, he also sought further evidence that would link the suspect with the robbery, hence making his discovery of the weapons deliberate, not inadvertent. The trial court deemed this evidence admissible, even though the LaRault's warrant did not authorize seizing it. A jury convicted Horton of armed robbery and sentenced him to prison. Horton asked the California Court of Appeals to hear his case, arguing that the court must suppress all evidence not specified in the warrant, because LaRault did not find it inadvertently. However, the court denied his request, relying on a view that if the evidence was in plain sight, then the police could seize it. Horton next petitioned the California Supreme Court, but it also rejected his petition.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1989 to 1994Horton v. California - Significance, Background Laws And Decisions, The Crime And The Evidence, The Case Of Terry Horton