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Name: People v. Gomez
Case #: G031026
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 04/08/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 6/9/04

A suppression motion was properly denied in spite of an unduly prolonged detention where probable cause supported a de facto arrest. The defendant was targeted as part of an ongoing wiretap investigation into a large narcotics operation, and as a result an officer pulled over defendant’s car for a seatbelt violation. Officers detained him for well over an hour while they waited for a K-9 unit to arrive to search his car. The court found no evidence in the record supporting this unreasonably prolonged detention, but held that the seatbelt violation alone gave the officers probable cause to arrest the defendant. Citing the California Supreme Court’s decision in People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601, the Court of Appeal noted that nothing in the Fourth Amendment prevents an officer from making an arrest for a fine-only offense. Even if state law would not permit an arrest for a seatbelt violation, the Fourth Amendment inquiry focuses only on whether a reasonable officer would believe the defendant was guilty of committing a crime, not on whether the state law would permit an arrest. The court further rejected appellant’s Harvey-Madden and hearsay objections to the introduction of evidence from other officers involved in the investigation, holding that there is no requirement that the officer whose personal observations were relied upon for purposes of the probable cause determination actually testify at the suppression hearing.