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Name: People v. Knight
Case #: C045858
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/02/2004

Officers lacked probable cause to arrest a defendant found with a loaded firearm in an unincorporated part of Cameron Park. The defendant was arrested after officers passed a Chevy Blazer in which he was a passenger parked on the side of the road on Cameron Park Drive in El Dorado County. The officers performed a “welfare check” to see if the people in the car needed help, and spotted some shotgun shells in the car. The officers asked if there was a gun in the car, and defendant replied that there was a shotgun near his feet. He also told officers that there was a handgun in the car. The officers immediately drew their weapons, ordered everyone out of the car, and searched the vehicle. They arrested the defendant for carrying a loaded firearm in a public place in violation of Penal Code section 12031. The handgun was not found in the car but some distance away. After his arrest, methamphetamine was found in defendant’s pocket. On appeal, defendant argued that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him for a violation of section 12031, which prohibits possession of a shotgun in a public place or on a public street in an incorporated city or in a prohibited area of an unincorporated territory. The Court of Appeal reversed the denial of the motion to suppress, noting that the officer was not aware whether the area was incorporated or not, and finding that the court below erroneously interpreted section 12031 to apply to carrying a weapon in any public place, rather than in any public place in an incorporated area or prohibited part of an unincorporated area.