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Name: People v. Ovieda
Case #: B277860
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 01/17/2018
Summary

Under the community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment, police officers were permitted to enter defendant’s home after he was detained outside and lied about attempting to kill himself with a firearm in the residence. Ovieda’s sister told a 911 operator that defendant was threatening to kill himself and had attempted suicide before. When the police arrived at Ovieda’s home, a friend in the house came outside and stated that Ovieda had threatened to commit suicide and tried to grab several firearms in his bedroom. The friend and his wife had to physically restrain Ovieda to keep him from shooting himself. The friend searched the bedroom for other firearms, which he moved to the garage. He did not know whether he had found them all. Ovieda came outside, was detained, and denied having made suicidal comments or that he had any firearms. Two officers performed a safety sweep of the house and garage and saw, in plain view, illegal firearms and equipment to cultivate and produce concentrated cannabis. Following the denial of his motion to suppress the evidence, Ovieda pleaded guilty to manufacturing concentrated cannabis and possession of an assault weapon. Held: Affirmed. The community caretaking exception to the Fourth Amendment permits the police to make a warrantless search if it is unrelated to a criminal investigation, and is conducted to preserve life or protect property, to aid individuals who are in danger of physical harm, to assist those who cannot care for themselves, to resolve conflict, or to provide other services on an emergency basis. Based on the circumstances in this case, the Court of Appeal concluded that the community caretaking exception applied to the search. Even though Ovieda came out of the house and denied he was suicidal, there was an ongoing safety concern because he lied about the firearms and his suicidal ideation. “The officers had a duty to prevent the possibility that the firearms ‘would fall into untrained or . . . malicious hands.’ [Citation.]” [Editor’s Note: Justice Perren dissented, concluding that the factors that support application of the community caretaking exception were not present in this case.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B277860.PDF