Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Court of Appeal:
Opinion Says Subjective Impression of Suspect of Compulsion Irrelevant; Consensual Encounter Raises No Fourth Amendment Concerns
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A pedestrian who changed direction when he spotted a patrol car, stuck something in his pocket, and darted onto the driveway of an apartment complex, was not “detained” when officers questioned him as to what he had in his pocket and he admitted possessing a “meth pipe,” the Court of Appeal for this district has held, affirming the denial of his suppression motion.
“Asking questions, including incriminating questions, does not turn an encounter into a detention,” Justice John Wiley of Div. Eight said in his unpublished opinion, filed Friday. He declared:
“A consensual encounter between a police officer and a citizen does not implicate the Fourth Amendment.”
An encounter is consensual, he spelled out, “if a reasonable and innocent person would feel free to leave or to refuse to cooperate with the police,” with a suspect’s subjective impression being of no relevance.
“People targeted for police questioning rightly might believe themselves the object of official scrutiny,” Wiley wrote. “Such directed scrutiny, however, is not a detention.”
The opinion upholds an order by Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Jose A. Rodriguez who declined to suppress as evidence the pipe found in defendant Ralph R. Chamagua’s pocket with traces of methamphetamine in it, a cache of that substance, and $162 in various denominations.
Accepting the trier of fact’s determination that Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Gorski’s testimony was credible and Chamagua’s assertions were not, Wiley said, “Chamagua’s encounter with the deputies was consensual to the point where he admitted to having an illegal pipe,” explaining:
“The deputies did not use or threaten physical force. They did not command Chamagua to do anything. They simply asked questions.”
Once Chamagua admitted possession of a “meth pipe,” he said, there was an ample ground for a detention and search.
The case is People v. Chamagua, 2019 S.O.S. 1553.
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