Skip to content
Name: People v. Low
Case #: S151961
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/24/2010
Summary

Penal Code section 4573 (bringing or sending a controlled substance into a place where prisoners are in custody) applies to a person arrested for an unrelated offense who knowingly and “voluntarily” brings the contraband into jail in the course of the booking process, and it does not implicate the Fifth Amendment right against compulsory self-incrimination. This is the companion case to People v. Gastello. In these two cases, the Supreme Court rejected the claim that section 4573 exempts the person who is in possession of a controlled substance when arrested and jailed for other crimes. In each case, appellant was arrested for an offense unrelated to possession of a controlled substance. As he was being brought onto jail property for booking, he was advised that it was a violation of section 4573 to bring controlled substances into the facility. When Low was questioned prior to entry on jail grounds, he said he had no controlled substances in his possession. During the subsequent booking search, he was found in possession of the controlled substance. Applying rules of statutory construction, the Supreme Court noted that the language of the statute specifically defines the target group as any person and, thus, includes the arrestee. The word “bringing” is defined broadly and contemplates the scenario in which an object is caused to come along, such as when controlled substance is hidden in clothing. And the mental state contemplated by the statute is merely that the person knows that he is in possession of the controlled substance and the nature of the substance – not the use intended for the substance. Finally, there is no compulsory self-incrimination in violation of the Fifth Amendment where the arrestee either admits possessing methamphetamine in violation of Health and Safety Code section 11377, subdivision (a), or says nothing and the risks prosecution for the more punitive Penal Code section 4573. The Fifth Amendment involves “testimonial” communications of an incriminatory nature obtained from the person under official compulsion. The situation here does not involve testimonial conduct, but, rather the nontestimonial criminal act of knowingly entering the jail in possession of a controlled substance.