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Name: People v. Brendlin
Case #: S123133
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 11/24/2008

The discovery of an outstanding arrest warrant before a search incident to arrest constitutes an intervening circumstance that may – and in the absence of purposeful or flagrant police misconduct, will – attenuate the taint of an antecedent unlawful traffic stop. An officer conducted an unlawful traffic stop during which he asked appellant, a passenger in the car, to identify himself. After appellant did so, the officer learned there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. The officer then searched appellant and the car and found contraband. On remand after reversal by the United States Supreme Court, respondent argued that the outstanding warrant, discovered after the unlawful car stop but before any search took place, purged the taint of the illegal seizure and rendered suppression of the evidence unnecessary. As a preliminary matter, the high court rejected appellant’s contention that this justification was forfeited. And even if forfeited, the Court said it would have considered the claim because “the issues the Attorney General raised have sufficient statewide importance to warrant an opinion from this court.” In deciding the issue of attenuation, the court applied the three factors set forth in Brown v. Illinois (1975) 422 U.S. 590: 1) the temporal proximity between the unlawful conduct and the subsequent search, 2) the presence of intervening circumstances, and 3) the flagrancy and purposefulness of the police misconduct. Because an arrest on an outstanding warrant is an intervening cause, only a few minutes had elapsed between the unlawful stop and the search incident to arrest, and there was no evidence the officer invented a pretext to run the warrant check, there was sufficient attenuation making suppression of the evidence unnecessary.