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Name: People v. Branner
Case #: C059288
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/17/2009
Subsequent History: rev. granted 3/10/10, S179730
Summary

Evidence seized during a search that was lawful under Supreme Court precedent at the time of the search, but later overruled, need not be excluded because the good-faith exception applies. Police stopped appellant’s car for suspected Vehicle Code infractions, and then arrested him because they learned he had failed to comply with his drug offender registration requirements. After police placed appellant in the patrol car, they searched his car and found drugs and a gun. The search was lawful at the time under New York v. Belton (1981) 453 U.S. 454; but while the case was pending on appeal, it became unlawful under Arizona v. Gant (2009) 556 U.S. __ [173 L.Ed.2d 485]. In its opinion on rehearing, the court held that while the holding of Gant is retroactive to this case, the search must be upheld under the good-faith exception. Suppressing the evidence would not serve the purpose behind the exclusionary rule because there was no police misconduct. The officers were relying in good faith on well-established law (Belton) that has been widely taught in police academies. The court also rejected appellant’s contention, relying on People v. McGaughran (1979) 25 Cal.3d 577, that the search was invalid because it was the result of an unduly prolonged detention. The court found that after Prop 8, McGaughran’s time limitation for minor traffic stops is no longer valid because the same result would not be compelled by federal law which would allow officers to immediately arrest appellant. [J. Robie dissented, concluding the Supreme Court’s retroactivity precedent requires application of the exclusionary rule if the search of appellant’s car is unconstitutional under Gant. (See U.S. v. Gonzalez (9th Cir. 2009) 578 F.3d 1130.) Advancing the purpose of the exclusionary rule is less important than honoring the constitutional principle of treating similarly situated defendants the same.]