People v. Flores

Decision Date21 December 1979
Docket NumberCr. 18751,C
Citation100 Cal.App.3d 221,160 Cal.Rptr. 839
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Steven Benjamin FLORES, Defendant and Respondent. PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Steven Benjamin FLORES, Defendant and Appellant. r. 19062.
James C. Hooley, Public Defender, Charles Scott Spear, Asst. Public Defender, Oakland, for defendant and respondent Steven Benjamin Flores

George Deukmejian, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Edward P. O'Brien, Asst. Atty. Gen., Eugene W. Kaster, Stanley M. Helfman, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and appellant The People of the State of California in Cr. 18751.

Quin Denvir, State Public Defender, Clifton R. Jeffers, Chief Asst. State Public Defender, Robert P. Mason, Deputy State Public Defender, San Francisco, for defendant and appellant Steven Benjamin Flores.

George Deukmejian, Atty. Gen., Robert H. Philibosian, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Crim. Div., Edward P. O'Brien, Asst. Atty. Gen., Derald E. Granberg and John H. Sugiyama, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and respondent The People of the State of California in Cr. 19062.

RACANELLI, Presiding Justice.

In these consolidated appeals, we consider the lawfulness of a warrantless search immediately following a valid arrest and the validity of an ensuing search warrant. We conclude that both of the challenged searches were lawful thus requiring reversal of the order of dismissal in Criminal No. 18751 and affirmance of the judgment in Criminal No. 19062. We explain our reasons hereafter.


Criminal No. 18751: Defendant was arrested and charged with violations of Health and Safety Code sections 11378 (possession for sale of phencyclidine or "PCP") and 11359 (possession of marijuana for sale) and four prior felony convictions. Following arraignment and plea, defendant moved to suppress certain evidence seized at the time of his arrest. Upon conclusion of the evidentiary hearing, the motion was granted and both counts were ultimately ordered dismissed; the People appeal the order of dismissal. 1

Criminal No. 19062: Defendant was separately charged with a violation of Health and Safety Code section 11378 (and similar prior felony convictions) as a result of evidence seized during a subsequent warrant search of his motel room. Defendant thereafter challenged the validity of the search warrant through a motion to suppress. Following denial of the motion, defendant entered a plea of guilty and thereafter instituted this appeal from the resulting judgment of conviction. (See Pen.Code, § 1538.5, subd. (m); Cal.Rules of Court, rule 31(d).)


The facts in the record before us are undisputed.

Criminal No. 18751: 2 On June 7, 1978, at about 8:30 p. m., Detective Schlim of the Fremont Police Department accompanied by several other officers approached the defendant, who was seated in the lobby of the Thunderbird Motel; Detective Schlim knew that the defendant was wanted on a "no-bail" felony arrest warrant. A canvas shoulder bag lay at defendant's feet. 3 Upon the officers' approach, defendant "lunged" forward thrusting his right hand into one of the bag's open pockets. A struggle ensued eventually resulting in defendant being forcibly subdued and handcuffed. While some of the officers restrained the defendant, who continued to resist while lying on the floor, a search of defendant's person was conducted; the police discovered certain papers, keys, a sheathed folding knife and a small amount of a suspected drug substance. Placing these items in small piles on the floor within easy reach, Detective Schlim then immediately proceeded to search the canvas shoulder bag, situated within 3 feet of the struggling defendant, for weapons or contraband; the search, concluded within two minutes of the initial confrontation, yielded a plastic bag filled with 19 gram-sized packages containing PCP and a quantity of marijuana.

Criminal No. 19062: Later that same evening a fellow officer (experienced in the field of narcotics and drug investigation and identification) obtained a warrant to search Thunderbird Motel room 223 registered to the defendant for inter alia PCP and certain paraphernalia associated with the processing and trafficking of the illegal substance. The supporting affidavit, reproduced in relevant part below, 4 asserted that in addition to the contraband found in the shoulder bag, some of the papers discovered in the course of the body search were receipts for the purchase of items commonly used in the manufacture and sale of PCP, an activity frequently transacted in motel rooms. Night-time service was requested to effect execution of the warrant that evening while the premises were being secured to prevent possible destruction or removal of the evidence during the interim. The search was performed shortly after midnight resulting in the seizure of evidence upon which the underlying offense is based.

I Scope of Review

While it is generally recognized that the findings of the trial court during a suppression hearing, whether express or implied, must be upheld on appeal if supported by substantial evidence (People v. Superior Court (Keithley) (1975) 13 Cal.3d 406, 410, 118 Cal.Rptr. 617, 530 P.2d 585; People v. Gale (1973) 9 Cal.3d 788, 792, 108 Cal.Rptr. 852, 511 P.2d 1204; People v. Lawler (1973) 9 Cal.3d 156, 160, 107 Cal.Rptr. 13, 507 P.2d 621; People v. King (1977) 72 Cal.App.3d 346, 349-350, 139 Cal.Rptr. 926), it is equally well established that where the facts bearing upon the validity of the challenged search and seizure are undisputed as here the question becomes one of law for the reviewing court. (See People v. Duren (1973) 9 Cal.3d 218, 238, 239, 107 Cal.Rptr. 157; People v. Superior Court (Henry) (1974) 41 Cal.App.3d 636, 639, 116 Cal.Rptr. 24; People v. Superior Court (Mahle) (1970) 3 Cal.App.3d 476, 488, 83 Cal.Rptr. 771.)

II Search Incident to Arrest; Accelerated Booking Search

Relying on an established line of authority, the People renew their principal argument below that the warrantless search of the canvas shoulder bag was valid as being incident to a lawful arrest, and, alternatively, as an accelerated booking search. Defendant counters that the warrantless seizure of property cannot, in the absence of exigent circumstances, be justified as incident to arrest where such property is not immediately associated with the arrestee, but rather is in the exclusive control of the arresting officer thus preventing any danger of the arrestee's ability to seize a weapon or to destroy evidence. Defendant further contends that the challenged search cannot be justified on the theory of an accelerated booking search once the subject property has been reduced to the exclusive control of the police. We consider such contentions in an order promoting convenience of discussion.

Prior to the advent of United States v. Chadwick (1976) 433 U.S. 1, 97 S.Ct. 2476, 53 L.Ed.2d 538, as clarified in Arkansas v. Sanders (1979) --- U.S. ----, 99 S.Ct. 2586, 61 L.Ed.2d 235, Fourth Amendment compliance was deemed established whenever a search incident to a valid custodial arrest was limited to the arrestee's person and the area within his immediate control from which he might gain possession of a weapon or destroy evidence. (See Chimel v. California (1968) 395 U.S. 752, 762-763, 89 S.Ct. 2034, 23 L.Ed.2d 685.) Under federal standards, authorization for a full body search is provided merely by the fact of the lawful arrest "not only (as) an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment, but . . . (also as) . . . a 'reasonable search' under that Amendment." (United States v. Robinson (1973) 414 U.S. 218, 235, 94 S.Ct. 467, 477, 38 L.Ed.2d 427; see also Gustafson v. Florida (1973) 414 U.S. 260, 94 S.Ct. 488, 38 L.Ed.2d 456.) However, justification for such searches tested under independent state standards (Cal.Const., art. I, § 13) pivots upon whether probable cause exists for the officer to believe that the arrestee possessed a weapon or contraband. (See People v. Maher (1976) 17 Cal.3d 196, 130 Cal.Rptr. 508, 550 P.2d 1044; People v. Longwill (1975) 14 Cal.3d 943, 123 Cal.Rptr. 297, 538 P.2d 753; People v. Brisendine (1975) 13 Cal.3d 528, 119 Cal.Rptr. 315, 531 P.2d 1099; People v. Superior Court (Simon) (1972) 7 Cal.3d 186, 101 Cal.Rptr. 837, 496 P.2d 1205.) The rationale underlying the latter holdings focuses upon the nature of the offense itself and the attendant necessity of police transport for jailhouse booking in order ". . . to provide for the safety of police personnel and other prisoners, to prevent the introduction of weapons and contraband into the jail, and to inventory the entering prisoner's property." (People v. Maher, supra, at p. 201, 130 Cal.Rptr. at p. 512, 550 P.2d at p. 1048; People v. Ross (1967) 67 Cal.2d 64, 70, 60 Cal.Rptr. 254, 429 P.2d 606 (rev. on other grounds, 391 U.S. 470, 88 S.Ct. 1850, 20 L.Ed.2d 750); People v. Rogers (1966) 241 Cal.App.2d 384, 389-390, 50 Cal.Rptr. 559.) And where the arrestee is validly subject to a search during a jailhouse booking process, he may also be subject to a "field" or accelerated booking search (People v. Barajas (1978) 81 Cal.App.3d 999, 1008-1009, 147 Cal.Rptr. 195) since there is no "significantly greater intrusion into the sanctity of the person of the arrestee if the search is conducted (earlier) in the field." (People v. Longwill, supra, at p. 948, 123 Cal.Rptr. at p. 300, 538 P.2d at p. 756.) Since the defendant's initial arrest was based on a "no-bail" felony warrant, the Longwill-Brisendine-Simon line of reasoning does not apply and a search of defendant's person contemporaneous with arrest may be lawfully undertaken. (People v. Ross, supra, 67 Cal.2d 64, 69-70,...

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