People v. Chimel, Cr. 11607

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation439 P.2d 333,68 Cal.2d 436,67 Cal.Rptr. 421
Decision Date10 April 1968
Docket NumberCr. 11607
Parties, 439 P.2d 333 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Ted Steven CHIMEL, Defendant and Appellant.

Keith C. Monroe, Santa Ana, for defendant and appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Willliam E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Ronald M. George, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

TOBRINER, Justice.

In this case our conclusion that the judgment of conviction should be affirmed rests upon the following propositions: (1) Although the warrants for arrest constitutionally failed under People v. Sesslin, 68 Cal.2d ---, 67 Cal.Rptr. 409, --- P.2d ---, the arreses themselves can stand upon the ground of probable cause; (2) since the search of defendant's home at the time of the execution of the first arrest warrant constituted a 'reasonable' search, the coins and other unmismatic items thereby seized could properly be introduced into evidence; (3) the failure to strike count II from the information after the committing magistrate held defendant to answer for only counts I and III did not constitute prejudicial error.

The rather bizarre facts of this case, which we must set forth in some detail as the foundation for our subsequent rulings, involve two burglaries of old and valuable coins. The first of these occurred at the Pulati home; the second at a coin shop called the Money Vault.

The night of the Pulati burglary, February 2, 1965, marked the one night, according to Mrs. Pulati, that defendant had missed a meeting of one of the three coin clubs in which defendant and the Pulatis were concurrent members during a period of approximately one-half year. Mrs. Pulati testified that defendant frequently dropped over to discuss coins with her husband and herself, that he had asked them whether their coins were insured, and that he was the only person besides the party who sold them their home who knew that the Pulatis kept coins there. Mrs. Pulati further testified that when she and her husband returned home on February 2, 1965, she found that, although the house had not been ransacked and valuable items in plain sight had not been taken, two drawers full of coins had been stolen.

The Money Vault burglary took place on the night of August 14, 1965. Slocum, the owner, testified that a few months before the burglary defendant had told him about a 'bid deal' he 'had going' and had also asked him whether his coins were insured and, if so, whether Slocum wanted his shop 'knocked over.' Slocum thought defendant was joking. Slocum further testified that the stolen coins were taken from the area in the shop where he kept his valuable coins, and that only one other collector besides defendant knew where he had put them. The day after the burglary defendant called Slocum and said, 'Well, I see you knocked your place over.' After Slocum told defendant that it was a 'sloppy' job, defendant replied that he had heard the job was 'professional'; defendant then denied committing the burglary.

Ambrose, a neighbor of defendant, testified that on the evening of the Money Vault burglary he had asked defendant to accompany him on a bicycle ride but that defendant had refused because he had a 'big deal going.' Defendant then showed Ambrose a walkie-talkie in defendant's car that he said he planned to use and, manipulating it, unsuccessfully tried to contact someone called 'Chuck.' The next day defendant told Ambrose that 'they' had broken into a coin shop. Later the same day, defendant called Ambrose back and told him that he had been joking. A few days later, when Ambrose read the newspaper account of the Money Vault burglary, he called the police and told them about defendant's remarks.

Officer Del Coma, who had responded to the burglary call at the Money Vault on the night of the crime, arrested defendant on August 25, 1965. According to the officer, he and defendant talked about the burglary generally and discussed the possibility of the return of the stolen coins, although 'it was not definitely labeled as to who was going to return the coins.' On August 30, the defendant returned to the police station with Charles Hamburger and Jones, an attorney representing Hamburger, for the purpose of negotiating the return of the Slocum coins in order to obtain a civil release from Slocum.

About a week after the conference, during which the parties disagreed over Slocum's obligation to itemize the stolen items, Slocum called defendant about his failure to return the coins. Slocum testified that defendant answered evasively. At approximately the same time, Officer Del Coma talked to Hamburger as to defendant's plans for his share of the stolen coins.

During the first week of September, Parsons, an owner of another coin shop, informed Officer Del Coma that defendant had told him he was involved in the Money Vault burglary. Parsons testified that when he advised defendant to return the coins to Slocum, defendant stated that he had already given them to someone else.

Officer Del Coma obtained an arrest warrant for defendant for the burglary of the Money Vault on the morning of September 13, 1965. At approximately 4 p.m. Officer Del Coma, who worked for the City of Orange, accompanied by two Santa Ana police officers, went to defendant's home in Santa Ana; defendant arrived 15 minutes later. Officer Del Coma showed defendant the warrant, placed him under arrest, and advised him of his rights. Over defendant's objection, Officer Del Coma then searched the entire house and garage. Del Coma found and seized numerous coins and other numismatic items. None of the seized items were identified as those taken from the Money Vault.

Del Coma took defendant into custody and compiled an inventory of the seized items. Defendant was then released on bail. Two days later the Pulatis identified some of the seized items as the coins taken from their home in February 1965. On the basis of the Pulatis' identification, the Santa Ana police obtained a second warrant for defendant's arrest on September 16, 1965.


The complaints upon which both the September 13 and the September 16 arrest warrants were issued are the same type of printed form as the complaint held insufficient to support a valid warrant in People v. Sesslin, supra, 68 Cal.2d p. ---, 67 Cal.Rptr. p. 411, --- P.2d p. ---. For the reasons set forth in Sesslin, we hold that the warrants here, because of constitutional infirmity under the Giordenello-Aguilar standard, cannot support a legal arrest.

The legality of an arrest, however, cannot depend exclusively upon the validity of the warrant pursuant to which the arrest is executed since an arrest without a warrant may stand if based on probable cause. (Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States (1931) 282 U.S. 344, 356, 51 S.Ct. 153, 75 L.Ed. 374; Stallings v. Splain (1920) 253 U.S. 339, 342, 40 S.Ct. 537, 64 L.Ed. 940.) 1 In Giordenello v. United States (1958) 357 U.S. 480, 487, 78 S.Ct. 1245, 1251, 2 L.Ed.2d 1503, the government argued to the Supreme Court that 'the arrest was justified Apart from the warrant.' The court held that, although the government could not urge probable cause as the basis for the legality of the arrest for the first time at this stage, 'this is not to say, however, that in the event of a new trial the Government may not seek to justify petitioner's arrest without relying on the warrant.' (Id. at 488, 78 S.Ct. at 1251.)

In the instant case the prosecution sought to justify the arrest of defendant independently of the warrant, and the trial court found that 'there was probable cause (based on) all the evidence relating to the information (Officer) Del Coma had at the time of the arrest.' The defendant here, unlike the petitioner in Giordenello, therefore, obtained ample notice that the prosecution did not rest the justification for the arrest solely on the warrant.

A search undertaken pursuant to an invalid search warrant which could otherwise be upheld as incident to an arrest based upon probable cause presents an analogous problem. 2 In sustaining the validity of such a search, the court in People v. Castro (1967) 249 A.C.A. 190, 196--197, 57 Cal.Rptr. 108, relied upon two reasons which equally apply to the instant issue: 'First: Although certain nonwarrant arrests and searches are permissible, the policy of the law is to encourage officers to use search warrants. * * * Second: The rule which excludes evidence obtained by illegal searches was adopted (partially) for the purpose of eliminating the incentive for police officers to use illegal methods. (Citations.) * * * That principle does not call for a rejection of the evidence in this case. Here the officer was guilty of no wrongdoing except faulty draftsmanship. * * * Given a choice between a nonwarrant arrest and a search based upon a magistrate's warrant, officers will be impelled to forego the latter, if a defect in the warrant procedure will invalidate an arrest and search which would have been legal without a warrant.' 3

Officer Del Coma had probable cause to arrest defendant on September 13 when he obtained a warrant for defendant's arrest for the burglary of the Money Vault and, pursuant to it, arrested defendant. 4 Moreover, no evidence even intimates that Del Coma procured the warrant in bad faith or exploited the illegality of the warrant. (Go-Bart Importing Co. v. United States, supra, 282 U.S. 344, 358, 51 S.Ct. 153, 75 L.Ed. 374.) If Del Coma had been proceeding without a warrant in arresting defendant, the arrest would have been lawful. To invalidate the arrest here Solely because the arresting officer first obtained a warrant supported by a constitutionally insufficient complaint would not further the policies of the Fourth Amendment but would subvert its preference for arrests and searches conducted pursuant to warrants.


The search of defendant's house and seizure of the coins and other numismatic items on September...

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