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Name: People v. Macabeo
Case #: B248316
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 09/03/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 11/25/2014: S221852

Suppression of evidence found during warrantless search of cell phone incident to arrest was not required because officers conducted search in reasonable reliance on appellate precedent. Torrance police observed Macabeo commit a traffic infraction while riding his bicycle. Macabeo was stopped and police performed first a patdown search and then a consent search of Macabeo’s pockets. One officer searched Macabeo’s cell phone and found child pornography, for which he was arrested (Pen. Code, § 311.11, subd. (a)). After the denial of his motion to suppress evidence, Macabeo pled guilty to the charge. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. A custodial arrest may be made for a traffic violation. An exception exists to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement for searches incident to arrest. In People v. Diaz (2011) 51 Cal.4th 84, the court approved a warrantless search of an arrestee’s cell phone in the absence of exigent circumstances. Diaz was overruled by Riley v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 2473, which held that, absent exigent circumstances, an arrestee’s cell phone could not be searched without a warrant. But in Davis v. U.S. (2011) 131 S.Ct. 2419, evidence improperly seized from a car incident to arrest was not subject to exclusion where officers reasonably relied on binding appellate precedent. Here, the search was authorized by Diaz at the time it was conducted and the good faith exception applies.

The search was conducted incident to lawful arrest. Macabeo claimed the search was unconstitutional because under state law he could not be arrested for the traffic violation (failing to stop at a stop sign). However, a custodial arrest is justified upon a showing of probable cause, even if the offense is very minor. (Atwater v. Lago Vista (2001) 532 U.S. 318 [upholding custodial arrest for violation of Texas seatbelt law]; People v. McKay (2002) 27 Cal.4th 601 [affirming arrest for fine-only offense].) With respect to whether officers are required to comply with state law limitations on their right to arrest (Veh. Code, § 40302, subd. (a)) before they may constitutionally arrest, “[a] court is not required to suppress evidence that is obtained in a manner consistent with the United States Constitution but in violation of state law.”