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Name: Brewer v. Superior Court (Contra Costa County)
Case #: A151584
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 11/06/2017

A defendant may challenge evidence found during a vehicle search as the fruit of an unlawful detention, even if he lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle. Police approached a parked car in which defendant was a passenger. After defendant “ducked down” behind the driver’s seat, police ordered him out of the car along with the other occupants, including the registered owner. During a search of the car, police found a gun underneath the driver’s seat, in front of where defendant had been seated. Defendant was charged with gun possession offenses. He moved to suppress the gun evidence, arguing it was obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The magistrate denied the motion because defendant lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the car. The trial court denied defendant’s motion to set aside the information for the same reason. Defendant filed a petition for writ of mandate. Held: Petition granted. An individual cannot challenge the introduction of evidence obtained in an allegedly unlawful search unless the individual had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the object seized or the place searched. (Rakas v. Illinois (1978) 439 U.S. 128, 143, 148.) Here, however, defendant did not challenge the lawfulness of the search that yielded the gun. Rather, he argued he was unlawfully detained by police, and that the gun found during the subsequent search should have been suppressed as fruit of the unlawful detention. Defendant’s ability to make this challenge is supported by out of state authority and the Supreme Court’s decision in Brendlin v. California (2007) 551 U.S. 249. Brendlin held that a passenger of a vehicle may challenge the constitutionality of a traffic stop, and strongly implied that a passenger could also challenge any evidence found in a subsequent search as fruit of an unlawful stop. Thus, under Brendlin and other authority, defendant may challenge the gun evidence as fruit of an unlawful detention, even if he lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the vehicle where the evidence was found.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: