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Name: In re J.G.
Case #: A139869
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 07/25/2014

Denial of motion to suppress evidence reversed because minor was detained before he consented to search of his backpack, rendering his consent involuntary. Police stopped 15-year-old J.G. and his brother D.G., for a “consensual encounter.” J.G. was carrying a backpack. They were asked for identification and D.G. produced a Honduran ID card. J.G. responded he had no identification. They responded “no” when asked if they possessed anything illegal. They allowed an officer to search them; nothing was found. Other officers arrived at the scene. The brothers were asked to sit on the curb. J.G. was asked if officers could search his backpack and he agreed. A gun was found and J.G. was arrested. A Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition was filed alleging possession of a concealed gun and other offenses. The minor’s motion to suppress evidence was denied. The court found the gun allegation true and the minor appealed. Held: Reversed. Under the Fourth Amendment, if a warrantless search is based on consent, it must be shown the consent was freely given and not a mere submission to authority. Here, what commenced as a consensual encounter ripened into a detention as the officer’s suspicions continued without apparent reason, the encounter became more intrusive, additional police arrived, J.G. was asked if he possessed anything illegal, police ran a records check on him, and he was searched. By the time police asked J.G. to sit on the curb, a reasonable person in J.G.’s circumstances would not have felt free to leave. The fact the police asked rather than directed J.G. to sit on the curb does not prevent a detention from occurring because, under the circumstances, J.G. felt his compliance was compelled. The gun was the fruit of an illegal detention. [Editor’s Note: The court discussed whether a “reasonable juvenile” standard should be applied to the determination of whether a reasonable person would have felt free to terminate the encounter, citing J.D.B. v. North Carolina (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2394. However, it did not resolve whether such a standard was applicable in the context of a detention because it found a reasonable person, regardless of age, would not have felt free to leave.]