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Name: People v. Romeo
Case #: A140146
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 09/28/2015

Prosecution did not admit sufficient evidence to prove that an officer’s warrantless search of a probationer’s residence fell under the probation search exception to the warrant requirement. Romeo lived with two probationers, Mills and Bolstad. Officers searched their home and found drugs in the garage, which had been converted into Romeo’s living quarters. Romeo was charged with drug-related offenses and moved to suppress the evidence on Fourth Amendment and Harvey-Madden grounds. At the hearing one of the searching officers, Miller, testified that the sole justification for the search was that Mills and Bolstad were on searchable probation. He knew about their probation status because he had a preexisting familiarity with them and had confirmed their probation status using a countywide computer system called ARIES. No other evidence was admitted concerning the existence or scope of Mills’ and Bolstad’s search conditions. The trial court denied the suppression motion. Romeo pled guilty to drug possession and appealed. Held: Reversed. The prosecution bears the burden of proving that a warrantless search falls within an exception to the Fourth Amendment. The probation search exception requires proof that the searching officer had advance knowledge that an individual was on probation and of the existence and scope of a search condition. Probation search conditions are not uniform and do not always authorize a warrantless search of the probationer’s residence. Here, the prosecution never admitted any evidence that Miller had advanced knowledge of the scope of Mills’ and Bolstad’s search conditions, particularly whether their search conditions permitted a warrantless search of their residence. Accordingly, the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof and the evidence found in the garage should have been suppressed

Testimony of searching officer did not violate Harvey-Madden rule where he used electronic database with probation information to confirm his prior knowledge about probationers. During a suppression hearing, an officer may testify that he knew an individual was on probation and was subject to a search condition based on information obtained through “official channels.” If the defense objects to this evidence, the Harvey-Madden rule requires the prosecution to prove that the information is not based on the imagination of the officer by offering evidence that the source has “sufficient indicia of reliability.” (See People v. Harvey (1958) 156 Cal.App.2d 516; People v. Madden (1970) 2 Cal.3d 1017.) The Harvey-Madden rule functions like a “hearsay rule adapted specifically to motions to suppress” by prohibiting the prosecution from relying on hearsay information communicated to the arresting or searching officer that is not sufficiently specific and fact based to be considered reliable. An electronic database such as ARIES may be considered an official channel under the Harvey-Madden rule. Here, Officer Miller’s testimony that he obtained information from the ARIES database was admissible to prove his receipt of information from an independent source under the state-of-mind hearsay exception. (See Evid. Code, § 1250, subd. (a).) The magistrate impliedly found that Miller’s “personal knowledge” was not derived solely from the database and that he had a reliable second source of information—his preexisting familiarity with Mills and Bolstad. He used the ARIES database to confirm his prior knowledge. Because the magistrate’s factual findings were supported by substantial evidence, the Court of Appeal concluded that the Harvey-Madden rule was not violated under these circumstances.