158 Cal.App.4th 1571, F051748, People v. Medina

Docket Nº:F051748
Citation:158 Cal.App.4th 1571, __ Cal.Rptr.3d__
Party Name:People v. Medina
Case Date:December 27, 2007
Court:California Court of Appeals
 
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Page 1571

158 Cal.App.4th 1571

__ Cal.Rptr.3d__

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

JOHN PEREZ MEDINA, JR., Defendant and Respondent.

F051748

California Court of Appeal, Fifth District

December 27, 2007

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Kern County Super. Ct. No. BF114844A. Frank A. Hoover, Judge.

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COUNSEL

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, John G. McLean and Doris A. Calandra, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Richard J. Krech, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

Kane, J.

The trial court granted defendant John Perez Medina, Jr.’s motion to suppress evidence discovered during a suspicionless probation search of his residence conducted solely based on defendant’s probation search condition. The People appeal. We will reverse.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

A Bakersfield police officer stopped defendant’s vehicle due to an inoperable taillight. Defendant pulled into the driveway of his house and stopped. Defendant told the officer it was his house. The officer asked defendant for his identification and conducted a records check that showed defendant was on felony probation subject to search for narcotics and paraphernalia. The officer searched defendant and his car, but found no contraband. The officer then asked defendant for his house keys, which defendant provided. The officer rang the doorbell and defendant’s father answered the door. The officer told him he was there to conduct a probation search on defendant. The father said he understood and he directed the officer to defendant’s room. Based solely on the search condition of defendant’s probation, the officer searched defendant’s room and found a small amount of methamphetamine on a dresser.

The Kern County District Attorney charged defendant with possession of methamphetamine (Health & Saf. Code, § 11377, subd. (a); count 1), possession

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of ammunition by a felon (Pen. Code, § 12316, subd. (b)(1); count 2),1 and operation of a vehicle with an inoperable rear taillight (Veh. Code, § 24600; count 3).

Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence (Pen. Code, § 1538.5), which the court granted. The court dismissed the case on its own motion.

DISCUSSION

In granting defendant’s motion to suppress, the trial court cited United States v. Knights (2001) 534 U.S. 112 [151 L.Ed.2d 497, 122 S.Ct. 587] (Knights) and concluded "[t]here existed no facts which would suggest a search was necessary or reasonable.” (Capitalization omitted.) The People argue Knights is inapplicable and the law in California continues to permit suspicionless searches of probationers. Although defendant relied on Knights at the suppression hearing, he now acknowledges it does not answer the question presented here. Instead, he contends the search was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment because there was no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The People reply, and we agree, that defendant fails to recognize that the basis for the validity of a probation search is consent, not reasonableness under a general Fourth Amendment analysis.

When we review a trial court’s ruling on a suppression motion, we defer to the court’s factual findings that are supported by substantial evidence. (People v. Hughes (2002) 27 Cal.4th 287, 327 [116 Cal.Rptr.2d 401, 39 P.3d 432].) Whether a search is constitutionally reasonable, however, is a legal question upon which we exercise our independent judgment. (Ibid.)

A residence search conducted without a warrant is presumed unreasonable unless it comes within an exception to the warrant requirement. (Katz v. United States (1967) 389 U.S. 347, 357 [19 L.Ed.2d 576, 88 S.Ct. 507].) One such exception is the consent to search. (Schneckloth v. Bustamonte (1973) 412 U.S. 218, 219 [36 L.Ed.2d 854, 93 S.Ct. 2041]; People v. Bravo (1987) 43 Cal.3d 600, 609 [238 Cal.Rptr. 282, 738 P.2d 336] (Bravo); People v. Mason (1971) 5 Cal.3d 759, 765 [97 Cal.Rptr. 302, 488 P.2d 630], disapproved on another ground in People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481, 486, fn. 1 [124 Cal.Rptr. 905, 541 P.2d 545].) (2) In California, probationers

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consent in advance, as a condition of their probation, to warrantless searches and seizures in exchange for the opportunity to avoid serving a state prison term. (Bravo, supra, 43 Cal.3d at p. 608; People v. Mason, supra, at pp. 764-766.) Warrantless searches of probationers are justified because they aid in deterring further offenses by the probationer and in monitoring compliance with the terms of probation. (People v. Mason, supra, at pp. 763-764; see Bravo, supra, at p. 610.) “By allowing close supervision of probationers, probation search conditions serve to promote rehabilitation and reduce recidivism while helping to protect the community from potential harm by probationers. [Citation.]” (People v. Robles (2000) 23 Cal.4th 789, 795 [97 Cal.Rptr.2d 914, 3 P.3d 311].)

A probationer’s consent is considered “a complete waiver of that probationer’s Fourth Amendment rights, save only his right to object to harassment or searches conducted in an unreasonable manner. [Citation.]” (Bravo, supra, 43 Cal.3d at p. 607.)[A] probationer who has been granted the privilege of probation on condition that he submit at any time to a warrantless search may have no reasonable expectation of traditional Fourth Amendment...

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