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Name: People v. Jackson (2024) 100 Cal.App.5th 730
Case #: B328954
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 03/15/2024

Police officers detained defendant without justification when they boxed in his vehicle, approached him from both sides, and aimed two flashlights on him. Jackson pled guilty to a felon-in-possession charge after his motion to suppress was denied. At the suppression hearing, two officers testified that they pulled their vehicle alongside Jackson’s and then shined flashlights on Jackson as they approached the vehicle from both sides. The officers explained that they suspected criminal activity was afoot because Jackson was in an expensive vehicle, was wearing a coat on a warm evening, was sitting awkwardly in the driver’s seat, and was uncomfortable and nervous at the approach of the officers. After speaking with Jackson for about ten seconds, one of the officers observed a gun and Jackson was arrested. Jackson appealed. Held: Reversed. Considering the totality of the circumstances, the officers detained Jackson. The patrol vehicle was pulled up next to Jackson’s at a distance such that he would need to squeeze out of his car to avoid contacting the police car. The officers then surrounded Jackson in a coordinated action, rather than approaching the car from the same side, which would cause a reasonable person to believe that they were not free to leave. The officers’ justification for this detention was inadequate as there was no objectively reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The Court of Appeal noted that wearing “a big bulky jacket on what feels to be a hot humid night does not lead an officer reasonably to conclude ‘that criminal activity may be afoot’” because there was a “universe of alternative explanations.” Additionally, it is natural for someone to look surprised, nervous, or uncomfortable when police surround their vehicle and shine flashlights on them. Sitting in an uncomfortable position also does not suggest crime. The officer’s statement that Jackson was in a “high-end car” parked on “that specific block” could not be reasonably interpreted to mean that block was a high-crime area.