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Name: People v. Gallegos
Case #: B147414
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 02/28/2002
Subsequent History: None

In this People’s appeal, the court found that the trial court erred in granting the defendant’s motion to suppress. The evidence seized was the result of a two-and-one-half year undercover investigation of the Mongols outlaw motorcycle gang for suspected violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (18 U.S.C. § 1961 et seq.), such as murder extortion, sale and possession for sale of controlled substances, firearms and stolen motorcycles and parts. The gang was highly organized, including records of meetings and finances. A search warrant of Gallegos’ home authorized seizure of various documents of racketeering activity by the Mongols organization, with Gallegos as its Secretary-Treasurer. Among other things, numerous weapons, 3 safes, drugs and paraphernalia, and a Mongols’ motorcycle jacket were found. The trial court granted the suppression of all items seized, noting that the search was just a general exploratory search unauthorized by the search warrant, that there was no nexus between the items listed in the warrant and the items gathered, and that the items seized were not in plain view. The court rules here that the trial court erred in suppressing the evidence. A nexus between listed items and seized items is not necessary. Contraband or evidence of a crime that is in plain view may be seized during a valid search even if those items are not listed on the warrant. Because the warrant authorized a search for “documents,” the officers could properly search anywhere documents might reasonable be found or stored, including drawers, closets, shelves, containers – including Tupperware and wooden boxes searched here, a storage area, and even relatively small places; the “officers did not seek an elephant in a breadbox, but limited their search to areas that reasonably might have contained the documents specified in the warrant.” The suppression ruling was reversed. [Editor’s note: the Mongols jacket which bore identifying gang patches fell within the definition of “records” or “documents” because it could reasonably be inferred that its owner was a Mongols member and thus properly initially seized. Compare, the bulletproof vest seized was not an illegal item and at the time it was initially seized it was not immediately apparent that it was “evidence of a crime.” However, later, after gathering the arsenal of weapons, both legal and illegal, this requirement was met. Therefore, the court ruled that it, too, could ultimately be properly seized.]