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Name: People v. Chamagua
Case #: B290057
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 03/29/2019
Summary

Although officers asked defendant incriminating questions, their encounter in an apartment complex was consensual and did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Officers arrested Chamagua after he was found with a large quantity of meth and admitted he was going to sell it. At a suppression hearing, an officer testified that he and his partner approached Chamagua in an apartment complex after Chamagua tried to avoid the officers. When they asked Chamagua if he had anything illegal, he responded, “I have a pipe on me.” When they asked if he had anything else illegal, he said, “Yeah, I have a bunch of meth on me,” and he apologized. The officers searched Chamagua and discovered a ping-pong-sized ball of crystal meth, and approximately $162 in cash. After waiving his right to remain silent, Chamagua told the officers that he was going to go party with some girls and smoke meth. He admitted that he sells meth to support his habit. Chamagua also testified at the hearing, but he contradicted himself and his testimony was inconsistent with the officer’s testimony. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, primarily on credibility grounds. Chamagua appealed. Held: Affirmed. When reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, the appellate court accepts the trial court’s resolution of disputed facts, its determinations of credibility, and the version of events most favorable to the prosecution. Adhering to those principles, the Court of Appeal accepted the officer’s testimony and determined that the encounter was consensual, and did not implicate the Fourth Amendment, to the point where Chamagua admitted having the illegal pipe. The officer did not use or threaten physical force, or command him to do anything, but merely asked questions. “Asking questions, including incriminating questions, does not turn an encounter into a detention.” A reasonable and innocent person in Chamagua’s position would have felt free to leave the encounter. Once he admitted possession of contraband, the officer had reasonable suspicion to detain and search him.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/B290057.PDF