Trowbridge v. Superior Court In and For Los Angeles County

Citation300 P.2d 222,144 Cal.App.2d 13
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Decision Date16 August 1956
PartiesBeverly Joy TROWBRIDGE, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of the State of California, IN AND FOR COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, Respondent. Civ. 21788.

Sydney M. Williams, Morton R. Goodman, Beverly Hills, for petitioner.

S. Ernest Roll, Dist. Atty., of Los Angeles County, Jere J. Sullivan, Fred N. Whichello and Lewis Watnich, Deputy Dist. Attys., Los Angeles, for respondent.

FOURT, Justice.

By an information the petitioner was charged with possessing flowering tops and leaves of Indian hemp (marihuana) in violation of section 11500 of the Health and Safety Code. Her motion to set aside the information on the ground that the evidence admitted against petitioner in the preliminary hearing was not legally admissible, and that the evidence was insufficient to support the information, was denied. She now seeks a writ of prohibition to prevent her trial.

An alternative writ of prohibition was issued by this court, a hearing was held and the writ was granted. Trowbridge v. Superior Court, Cal.App., 299 P.2d 436. A petition for rehearing was filed by the respondent and answered by petitioner. This court granted the petition for rehearing.

A resume of the testimony, insofar as it pertains to the questions involved in this case, is as follows: Rudolph S. Pena testified that he was a police officer of the city of Los Angeles, assigned to the Narcotic Division, and that he arrested the defendant February 17, 1956, at about 2:00 o'clock a. m. at 936 1/2 Seward Street. He stated that the facility at the above address was a garage apartment, located on the back of the lot. About an hour before the arrest he had received information that the defendant, who was described to him as a female Caucasian about twenty-one years old, about five feet two inches tall, with black hair, driving a green 1950 Nash automobile, and living at the above mentioned address, was in the habit of keeping marihuana in her apartment; further, that on a day or two prior to this, the informer had seen marihuana in the apartment. The officer testified that he went to the address and was there for about fifteen minutes before the arrest of the defendant. He stated that he was acquainted with the informer and had used information supplied by the informer on two or three other occasions. He was asked if the information supplied had usually been correct, and he answered that it had been.

As a result of the information received, the witness went to the location and as he and his associate officer climbed the stairs they looked in the garage and observed that there was nothing there. They went up onto the north rear part of the porch and, after about five or ten minutes, heard a car come in the driveway. They saw the defendant and a young man, who they later learned was Philip Bedrosian, run up the stairs. The defendant opened the door, and just as she opened it, the officers stepped up and said, 'We are police officers. You are under arrest.' Defendant said, 'For what?' The witness answered, 'For narcotics.' She then laughed and said, 'You are kidding.' The witness said, 'No'. She then sat down (apparently inside the apartment) and the witness asked, 'Can I come in?' and she said, 'Yes, of course.' The witness said, 'Do you have any marijuana in the house?' and defendant replied, 'I don't know anything about any marihuana.' The witness then said, 'Well, we are going to look around anyway,' and defendant said, 'Go ahead. You won't find anything.'

The officers proceeded with their search. The witness picked up a white leather jacket which was lying over the arm of a couch, looked into the pocket and saw what appeared to be marihuana. Defendant's attention was called to the substance and she said she didn't know what it was. The material in the pocket was then packaged and marked by the witness. The witness then started into the kitchen, and as he did so, the defendant stood in front of him and said, '* * * I never use the kitchen.' The witness then said, 'That is beside the point. I would like to go in if you don't mind. You can stand right here and watch everything I do.'

In the kitchen the witness located in a trash basket a newspaper folded up, inside of which were some large stems. There were some loose flakes of marihuana on the bottom of the basket. As it was found the witness showed it to the defendant and said, 'What about this?' and she replied, 'What is it?' and he said, 'You know perfectly well what it is. How did it get here?' She thereupon replied. 'I don't know what it is.' The search continued and the carpet sweeper was turned up and opened, and seeds and some marihuana debris were noticed by the witness. She was asked to explain the presence of the material and her answer was, 'I don't know.'

During the search, Officer Walsh, the partner of the witness, came up with a bottle which was marked 'Schilling', which had been located in a chest of drawers. Walsh said, 'Whose is this?' and the defendant said, 'It is mine, I guess.' Inside of the bottle was a small amount of what appeared to be marihuana, and as Walsh opened it, she said, 'I don't know whose it is.'

The witness then went to a closet where there was another white jacket and the pockets were checked and some debris removed and put into a package. The debris contained material resembling marihuana.

The defendant was asked if she had anything in the garage, and she said, 'No, I don't even park my car down there.' The witness stated, 'You don't mind if I look around down there?' and she said, 'No, go ahead.' The garage was searched, and in plain view, in a box under an overstuffed chair, was a newspaper in a plastic bag which contained marihuana. In each instance where marihuana was found, it was packaged and specially marked by the officer.

On voir dire examination by counsel for the defendant, the witness stated that he had first heard about the defendant an hour before the arrest; further, that they, the officers, had gotten to the apartment or facility at about 1:45 o'clock a. m., and the defendant arrived at about 2:00 a. m. The witness put the defendant under arrest and she made no protest as to the witness coming into the apartment. The witness did not have a search warrant nor a warrant for the arrest of the defendant. A thorough search was made once the officers were in the house. The witness had never heard of the defendant before the evening of the arrest and the search, and the only information the officer had was the information given to him by the informer.

Later, when on the way to the police station, and at the station, the witness talked with the defendant. Among other things, he said, 'You certainly made it hard for us.', and the defendant said, 'Why should I tell you anything?' When asked for an explanation for the presence of what appeared to be marihuana in the apartment, she said, 'Anybody could have put it there. * * *' The witness said, 'How about the stuff in the jacket?' and her answer was, 'Well, my girl friend probably put it in there.' When inquiry was made as to who and where the girl friend was the defendant did not disclose any name and said she did not know where she could be found. When asked about the second jacket in the closet, she stated, '* * * anybody could have put the stuff in there.'

The transcipt further indicates that the packaged items, prepared by the officers at the time of the arrest and search, were examined by a chemist from the police department, and in each instance, the chemist stated that the substance in the packages was or contained marihuana.

We are of the opinion that the arrest was justified, lawful and proper.

It is settled that reasonable cause to justify an arrest may consist of information obtained from others and is not limited to evidence that would necessarily be admitted at the trial on the issue of guilt. People v. Boyles, 45 Cal.2d 652, 656, 290 P.2d 535; Brinegar v. United States, 338 U.S. 160, 171-176, 69 S.Ct. 1302, 93 L.Ed. 1879; United States v. Li Fat Tong, 2 Cir., 152 F.2d 650, 652; Aitken v. White, 93 Cal.App.2d 134, 145, 208 P.2d 788; Cook v. Singer Sewing Machine Co., 138 Cal.App. 418, 422-423, 32 P.2d 430; Willson v. Superior Court, 46 Cal.2d 291, 294 P.2d 36.

It was said in People v. King, 140 Cal.App.2d 6, 294 P.2d 972, 975:

"The term, reasonable or probable cause, has been defined: 'By 'reasonable or probable cause' is meant such a state of facts as would lead a man of ordinary caution or prudence to believe, and conscientiously entertain a strong suspicion, that the person accused is guilty.' In re McCarty, 140 Cal.App. 473, 474, 35 P.2d 568.

"The term, 'probable,' has been defined as meaning 'having more evidence for than against; supported by evidence which inclines the mind to believe, but leaves some room for doubt.' Ex parte Heacock, 8 Cal.App. 420, 421, 97 P. 77.' People v. Novell, 54 Cal.App.2d 621, 623-624, 129 P.2d 453, 454.'

Penal Code, section 836, provides as follows:

'A peace officer may make an arrest in obedience to a warrant delivered to him, or may, without a warrant, arrest a person:

* * *

* * *

'3. When a felony has in fact been committed, and he has reasonable cause for believing the person arrested to have committed it. * * *'

In the instant case there is nothing to indicate that the informer was unreliable, in fact, the exact opposite appears, namely, that the informer was reliable insofar as information given to the police was concerned.

The informer told the policeman, about an hour before the arrest, that the defendant (describing her accurately) lived at a certain address and that it was her habit to keep marihuana in her apartment, and that a day or two previously the informer had seen marihuana in the apartment. The policeman was acquainted with the informer and used information supplied by the...

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