People v. Z.A. (In re Z.A.), No. D060033.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtAARON
Citation12 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 8407,144 Cal.Rptr.3d 577,2012 Daily Journal D.A.R. 10257,207 Cal.App.4th 1401
PartiesIn re Z.A., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. The People, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Z.A., Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date26 July 2012
Docket NumberNo. D060033.

207 Cal.App.4th 1401
144 Cal.Rptr.3d 577
12 Cal.
Daily Op. Serv. 8407
2012 Daily Journal D.A.R. 10,257

In re Z.A., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
The People, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Z.A., Defendant and Appellant.

No. D060033.

Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.

July 26, 2012.

[144 Cal.Rptr.3d 580]

Law Office of E. Hong, Inc., and Esther Kim Hong for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland and Gil Gonzalez, Assistant Attorneys General, Jennifer A. Jadovitz and Scott C. Taylor, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

[207 Cal.App.4th 1404]I.

Authorities at the San Ysidro port of entry, at the border between Mexico and

[144 Cal.Rptr.3d 581]

the United States, discovered approximately 36 pounds of marijuana hidden in a car in which Z.A., a minor, was riding as a passenger. The People filed a petition pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 charging Z.A. with two counts of transporting more than 28.5 grams of marijuana (Health & Saf.Code, § 11360, subd. (a)) 1 (counts 1, 2), and one count of possessing marijuana for sale ( § 11359) (count 3). After an adjudication hearing, the juvenile court found the allegations to be true. At a subsequent disposition hearing, the court committed Z.A. to the Short Term Offender Program for a period of 90 days.

On appeal,2 Z.A. contends that the juvenile court erred in admitting evidence of statements she made to law enforcement officers during a [207 Cal.App.4th 1405]custodial interrogation on the night of her arrest. Z.A. claims that the statements were obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694( Miranda ) and its progeny. Z.A. also claims that there is insufficient evidence to support the true findings on all of the counts.3

We conclude that the juvenile court committed reversible error in admitting certain statements that Z.A. made during the interrogation. Specifically, we conclude that the statements were inadmissible to prove Z.A.'s guilt because they were improperly obtained after Z.A. had invoked her right to remain silent. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment. However, because we conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court's true findings on all counts, retrial is not barred on remand.


A. The prosecution's evidence

On May 5, 2011, John Adkisson drove a Mitsubishi Eclipse from Mexico to the port of entry at San Ysidro. Adkisson's girlfriend, 17–year–old Z.A., was in the front passenger seat. A drug detection dog showed interest in the car. Customs and Border Protection Officer Hector Ibarra approached the car and briefly interviewed

[144 Cal.Rptr.3d 582]

Adkisson. According to Officer Ibarra, while he was questioning Adkisson, Z.A. appeared “stiff” and “nervous.” Ibarra said that Z.A. was “intensely looking” at a “handheld video game,” and would not look at him. Officer Ibarra escorted Adkisson and Z.A. and their car to a secondary screening area.

Once they arrived at the secondary screening area, Officer Ibarra searched the car. Officer Ibarra discovered a brown package in a hidden compartment [207 Cal.App.4th 1406]behind the “glove box.” After determining that the package contained “contraband,” Officer Ibarra placed both Adkisson and Z.A. in handcuffs and took them to a security office. Authorities later determined that there were several packages in the compartment that contained a total of approximately 36 pounds of marijuana. Officers searched Adkisson and Z.A. They found $100 on Adkisson. Z.A. had no money.

Officer Ibarra agreed with defense counsel that the package he found had not been in “plain sight” and that a passenger in the car “couldn't see that there were drugs in the car simply by sitting in it.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Ethan Cramer interviewed Z.A. after her arrest. San Diego Police Officer Jorge Rosales assisted Agent Cramer in conducting the interview.4 Agent Cramer testified at the adjudication hearing that after he read Z.A. her Miranda rights, Z.A. indicated that she would agree to speak with the officers. When Agent Cramer initially asked Z.A. why she was coming into the United States, she said that she and Adkisson were going shopping. Agent Cramer then asked Z.A. why the couple had been “crossing so many different vehicles,” and Z.A. explained that Adkisson bought and sold cars at auctions. Z.A. initially maintained that she did not know that there were drugs in the car.

Agent Cramer agreed with the prosecutor that after this exchange, Z.A. began to “change her story.” According to Agent Cramer, Z.A. said that she knew that Adkisson had friends in Tijuana who dealt in narcotics and that she had told him not to get involved, but he responded, “ ‘We need a way to pay for your pregnancy.’ ” At this point in the interview, Z.A. had not indicated that she knew there were drugs in the car.

Agent Cramer testified that Z.A. “changed [her story] a third time,” saying that “she did know that there were narcotics in the vehicle, that the two of them had been crossing, [and] that [Adkisson] had told her he was building his crossing history.” Z.A. said that she thought this was “the first time” that there were narcotics in a vehicle that she and Adkisson attempted to bring into the United States.

Agent Cramer stated that Z.A. admitted that she and Adkisson had picked up the Eclipse from an unknown man at a Home Depot in Tijuana.5 According to Agent Cramer, Z.A. said that Adkisson had told her not to be nervous and that the dogs would not detect the drugs. Z.A. also told Agent Cramer that she believed Adkisson was being paid $1,000 for the job. Z.A. [207 Cal.App.4th 1407]mentioned that Adkisson had told her about another young couple who had been working for the same drug trafficking organization who had been caught after the female became extremely nervous and attracted attention to their vehicle.

Agent Cramer also stated that Z.A. told him that a white truck had followed the

[144 Cal.Rptr.3d 583]

vehicle that she and Adkisson were in as they drove toward the border, and that the truck had turned away just before they reached the border. Z.A. also told Agent Cramer that she and Adkisson were “supposed to take [the Eclipse] to a Wal–Mart parking lot on the United States side.” Finally, Agent Cramer explained that officers had found approximately 36 pounds of marijuana in the Eclipse, and that this quantity would not be for personal use, but instead, would be for “distribution and sale.”

B. The defense

Z.A.'s mother testified that she knew both Z.A. and Adkisson well, and that to her knowledge, neither Adkisson nor Z.A. had ever possessed drugs.

Z.A. testified that she crossed the border with Adkisson on the day in question because she thought he was “going to see somebody else,” explaining that she believed that Adkisson had been cheating on her. According to Z.A., after initially refusing to let Z.A. come with him, Adkisson finally agreed.

Z.A. stated that she believed one of Adkisson's friends had loaned him the car. She did not think it was strange that someone was lending Adkisson a car, because she had crossed over the border with Adkisson in several different cars. Z.A. said that during her previous crossings with Adkisson, she had never seen anything that made her believe he was involved in crossing drugs.

Z.A. explained that as she and Adkisson approached the border on the day in question, Adkisson “out of nowhere” began to tell her a story about a friend of his who had been detained when the friend and his girlfriend attempted to smuggle drugs across the border. Z.A. also said that after the dog alerted on the Eclipse, Adkisson told her, “ ‘Don't worry.’ ” At that point, Z.A. did not know what Adkisson was telling her not to worry about. While the car was being searched, Adkisson told Z.A. that he was going to get in trouble. Z.A. did not think she would be in trouble because she had “nothing to do with that.” Z.A. said that she had not been promised any money and that she had played no role in the smuggling attempt. Z.A. was surprised when Adkisson told her that agents had found drugs in the car.

On cross-examination, Z.A. acknowledged having gone with Adkisson to pick up the Eclipse at a Home Depot, and that a white truck had followed [207 Cal.App.4th 1408]them as Adkisson drove to the border. Z.A. also acknowledged having told Agent Cramer that it was the first time that she was “crossing drugs.” The prosecutor also asked Z.A., “And you were asked by [Agent Cramer] why you went with [Adkisson] that day, and you told him [ sic ] that nothing was going to happen, that you shouldn't get nervous, and that the dogs are not going to smell it; [Adkisson's] sure no one was going to notice.” Z.A. responded in the affirmative. Z.A. also explained that she “imagined” that Adkisson would be paid $1,000. She said that she knew that Adkisson had been trying to build up his crossing history, but maintained that she did not know why.


A. The juvenile court committed reversible error in admitting statements that Z.A. made during a custodial interrogation after she had invoked her right to remain silent

Z.A. contends that the trial court committed reversible error in denying her motion to suppress statements that she made during the custodial interrogation, after

[144 Cal.Rptr.3d 584]

she had invoked her right to remain silent. Specifically, Z.A. contends that the statements were inadmissible to prove her guilt because they were obtained in violation of Miranda and its progeny.6

1. Factual and procedural background
a. The interrogation7

Agent Cramer and Officer Rosales interrogated Z.A. after her arrest. Agent Cramer began the interrogation by informing Z.A. that law enforcement [207 Cal.App.4th 1409]officers “found drugs in your car.” After...

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