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Name: Boitez v. Superior Court (2023) 96 Cal.App.5th 1213
Case #: C098102
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/07/2023

Defendant’s consent to search of car during traffic stop was not voluntary under the Fourth Amendment where it was inextricably linked to the officer’s false promise of leniency not to tow the car. Defendant was pulled over for a traffic violation while driving his mother’s car. As part of obtaining defendant’s consent to search the car, the police officer falsely, but apparently with subjective belief that it was true, stated that he had the authority to tow defendant’s mother’s car, but would not do so if defendant consented to the search. Defendant agreed, twice asking if the car could be released to his sister. After his motion to suppress evidence found during the search of the car was denied, defendant filed a petition for writ of mandate or prohibition. Held: Petition granted. As part of the calculus in determining whether a defendant’s consent to search was voluntarily given, courts must consider any evidence that a police officer made a misrepresentation that prompted the defendant’s acquiescence to the search. Here, the People conceded the officer did not have authority to tow the car, as there was no community caretaking function that necessitated towing the car. Thus, the court considered whether, but for the police officer’s false promise of leniency as to the towing of defendant’s mother’s car, the prosecution met its burden by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant’s consent was uncoerced. The prosecution did not meet that burden. The false promise of leniency not to tow the car was a material and inextricable part of the agreement inducing defendant’s consent to the search, and thus, under the totality of the circumstances, defendant’s consent was not voluntarily given. The officer’s honest but mistaken belief that he had authority to tow the car did not impact the analysis. “The question of voluntary consent cannot be based on the subjective good faith of a police officer in making the false statement that induced the defendant’s consent to search.” If subjective good faith alone were the test, the protections of the Fourth Amendment would evaporate.