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Name: People v. Linn
Case #: A145052
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/08/2015

Police officer unlawfully detained defendant when he asserted coercive authority over her, including taking her driver’s license and conducting an unexplained record check, before he had reasonable suspicion that she had committed a crime. Linn was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence. The trial court granted her motion to suppress evidence based on an illegal detention. The appellate division of the superior court reversed, finding that the encounter was consensual. The case was certified for transfer to the Court of Appeal. Held: Reversed. A detention occurs when an officer intentionally applies either physical restraint or asserts his authority to which an objectively reasonable person innocent of any wrongdoing would feel compelled to submit and to which such a person does submit. There is no bright line distinction between a consensual encounter and a detention. Here, Officer Helfrich encountered Linn’s car on the road and observed a passenger in her vehicle flick cigarette ashes out the window. When Linn parked the car and got out, the officer stopped his motorcycle within three feet of the driver’s door, asked Linn about her passenger’s conduct, asked for her driver’s license without explanation as he commanded her to extinguish her cigarette and put down her soda, and then ran a records check on Linn’s license. As he questioned Linn, the officer smelled alcohol. He then administered a breath test and arrested Linn for driving under the influence. Viewed under the totality of the circumstances, the officer’s actions, up until the point he smelled alcohol, constituted an assertion of his coercive authority before he had any reasonable suspicion to detain Linn. An objectively reasonable person would not have felt free to end the counter and, as a result, Linn was illegally detained.