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Name: U.S. v. El Farra
Case #: 07-55860
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 01/27/2009

Under the Fourth Amendment, those who have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the area searched may challenge the search. In this case, appellants challenged the forfeiture of money seized in the search of their home, claiming they had the right to litigate the search. The district court had denied the suppression motion without a hearing on the grounds that appellants had no standing to contest the search. Police officers searched the residence of Mohammad pursuant to a search warrant. Mohammad is the adult son of Basel and Fatima and lived in a bedroom of their home where they also lived. The search was primarily conducted in his room, although the officers did do a cursory sweep of the rest of the house. Inside Mohammad’s bedroom, the officers found drug contraband, along with a considerable amount of currency in a safe in the closet. The government sought forfeiture of the money as proceeds of marijuana sales. Because the parents owned and resided in the home and no steps had been taken to separate the bedroom from the remainder of the residence, the parents had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the bedroom such that they could contest the search. Rawia, Mohammad’s sister, claimed she stored property in the safe, but because she did not live in the home, she did not have a similar expectation of privacy. Mere ownership of the item seized does not entitle the owner to challenge the search. In a separate issue, the court confirmed that the protections of the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause do not apply to civil forfeiture proceedings.