A ‘Wilder’ motion is filed to suppress evidence obtained based on warrantless seizure of evidence illegally obtained. The motion must convey how the search or seizure was made unlawfully without a warrant and should also address any possible justifications the prosecution might assert as a basis for the search. Wilder v. Superior Court (1979) 92 Cal.App.3d 90
A complementary motion, known as “Williams” based on People v. Williams (1999) 20 Cal.4th 119, 128- 138, which held that a defendant need only allege that a search was unreasonable because it was conducted without the benefit of a warrant. The defendant is not required to guess which warrantless exception applies and, in fact, this doctrine allows the defense to wait until the prosecutor has raised justifications for the warrantless search before being required to respond. Defense counsel may wait until the evidentiary hearing to file a reply brief. If the defense fails to respond or rebut these justifications, the defense risks waiver of these arguments. Sophisticated legal practice will already have outlined anticipated justifications in the moving papers under the Williams doctrine as to how the warrantless search was illegal.
Defense counsel must be careful to give notice of the anticipatory rebuttal so that these issues can later be raised on appeal. Defense counsel must set forth the relief requested, the legal grounds for the relief, and evidence to back up claims.
Consider the following fact pattern and the filing of a Wilder/Williams motion. A police officer and a probation officer go to conduct a ‘probation search’ of a woman after a tip that she sold drugs there. The woman was not on probation as she was already in custody. Police officers continued to watch her house and saw a vehicle pull in to the driveway. A person on parole exited the vehicle. He was unrelated to the woman on probation/in custody. The police ask if anyone knows of this woman and is anyone else on probation or parole. The person who had exited the vehicle admits to being on parole. The police proceed into the house where a young man consents to the search. He tells the police the woman they are looking for is in custody. The police discover that one of the rooms they want to search is locked. The young man explains that the room belongs to the man outside on parole. The following fact pattern is associated with the filing of a Wilder/Williams Motion. Police and a probation officer go to conduct a “probation search” of a woman resident after being tipped off that drugs are being sold there. The woman on probation was not present as she was already in custody. Cops continue to watch the house and see a suspicious vehicle pull up to the driveway. One of the people in the driveway that exited the vehicle happens to be on parole, unrelated to the woman being sought for a probation search. Police ask if anyone knows of this woman and if anyone else is on probation or parole. The person admits to being on parole. After being asked to wait outside, police proceed inside the house where a young man consents to the search. He tells the police the woman they are looking for is in custody. They proceed to search one of the rooms to discover it is locked. The young man tells the police that the room belongs to the man outside who admitted to being on parole. Individuals on parole, unlike those on probation, always have a ‘search condition.’ Law enforcement must know of the search conditions prior to the search, and the search condition cannot be used in an improper manner, which is what happened here. An experienced criminal defense attorney will file a Wilder/Williams motion because there was an unlawful detention and seizure of evidence.