CALIFORNIA SEARCH & SEIZURE LAW: THE FOURTH AMENDMENT AND PRIVATE POSTAL BOXES

The defendant rented a private postal box. The police went to it and asked an employee if the defendant received mail at that facility. The clerk responded by reaching into the defendant’s postal box, retrieving three letters, and displaying them without opening them to the police. One showed a bill from AT&T. The police then directed a warrant for cell phones records to AT&T and got evidence of defendant’s involvement in a kidnapping.

The Court of Appeal says that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to an employee’s removal of mail from a postal box at a private mail facility because the back of the box was open and the staff had complete and unfettered access to its contents, and the police didn’t search the postal box or direct the clerk to reveal its contents. The staff has already seen and handled the mail, so there’s no limitation on the staff.

People v. Reyes; 2009 DJ DAR 15589; DJ, 11/3/09; C/A 4th, Div. 3

 

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