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Name: People v. Hua
Case #: A116578
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 01/11/2008

Probable cause to believe that a nonjailable offense is being committed does not justify a warrantless entry into the home in order to prevent destruction of evidence. Police responded to a call regarding a “noise disturbance” at an apartment. Upon arrival they detected the “distinct odor” of marijuana and, looking through the front window, saw several people socializing in the living room and one person whose conduct was consistent with someone smoking marijuana. The police knocked and when appellant opened the door, they observed smoke inside. Concerned that evidence as to possession of marijuana would be destroyed, they entered the residence. Once inside, they conducted a protective sweep for “safety” purposes and discovered 46 growing marijuana plants and a cane sword on the top bookshelf in the living room. The appellate court reversed the denial of the suppression motion, finding the entry into the apartment unjustified as the suspected offense was a minor, nonjailable offense, of a nature insufficient in gravity to support warrantless entry. (Welsh v. Wisconsin (1984) 466 U.S. 740; Illinois v. McArthur (2001) 531 U.S. 326; rejecting People v. Robinson (1986) 185 Cal.App.3d 528.)