Court Holds That Exclusionary Rule Does Not Apply In California State Personnel Board Case

On October 20, 2009, in the case of Department of Transportation v. State Personnel Board (Lee B. Kendrick, III, real party in interest) Case No. B210334, the California Court of Appeal decided that evidence seized without a search warrant was admissible in an administrative review proceeding before the State Personnel Board.

Caltrans employee Lee Kendrick allegedly threatened his supervisor. The supervisor telephoned the police, and a CHP officer arrested Kendrick after words were exchanged. After the arrest, the CHP officer searched Kendrick's vehicle without a search warrant and found a handgun, ammunition, methamphetamine and marijuana.

Criminal charges were dismissed after the trial court granted a motion to suppress evidence of the handgun and drugs because it was obtained without a search warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Caltrans terminated Kendrick and he appealed to the State Personnel Board. On rehearing, the State Personnel Board decided that the evidence seized from Kendrick must be excluded from the administrative proceeding. Caltrans appealed.

The trial court overturned the exclusion of evidence and the Court of Appeal affirmed.

In finding that the evidence should have been admitted in the employment termination proceeding, the Court of Appeal reasoned that the purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter the police from violating the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures and that it should not be applied to Caltrans because Caltrans did not request the search of Kendrick's vehicle. Kendrick argued that Caltrans and CHP are both state entities and should be treated as one, but the Court disagreed.

The Court stated that the exclusionary rule remains applicable in administrative proceedings in cases of egregious violations of the Fourth Amendment, and that a balancing test must be applied and consideration must be given to the social consequences of applying the exclusionary rule and to the effect thereof on the integrity of the judicial process. In Kendrick's case, the Court found no egregious conduct on the part of Caltrans, but it did find that there would be negative social consequences if the evidence was suppressed.

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