Skip to content
Name: People v. Brown
Case #: S218993
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/06/2015

Under the circumstances of this case, defendant was detained where police stopped behind defendant’s parked car and activated the patrol vehicle’s emergency lights. A deputy sheriff investigating an emergency call reporting a fight in progress pulled his car behind Brown’s parked vehicle and activated his emergency lights. The officer found Brown to be intoxicated and he was charged with felony driving under the influence. Brown moved to suppress evidence of his intoxication as the fruit of an unlawful detention. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Brown had not been detained until the deputy observed that he was intoxicated and, at that point, the deputy had a reasonable suspicion that Brown had been driving under the influence. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The California Supreme Court granted review. Held: Affirmed. An officer seizes a person when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen. In situations involving a show of authority, a person is seized if, in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave, or otherwise terminate the encounter, and if the person actually submits to the show of authority. (Brendlin v. California (2007) 551 U.S. 249, 255.) Without adopting a bright-line rule, the court concluded that a reasonable person in Brown’s position would not have felt free to leave, and Brown demonstrated submission to police authority by staying in his car. Under the totality of the circumstances, Brown was detained. However, the detention was supported by reasonable suspicion and was justified because there was a reliable citizen’s report of a violent fight potentially involving a firearm and the officer found Brown near the scene of the fight in an otherwise vacant alley only minutes later.