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Name: People v. Sacrite
Case #: H044419
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/31/2018
Summary

Pat search was lawful where officer observed bulge shaped like a cell phone in defendant’s pocket and reasonably concluded the bulge might be a weapon. After observing Sacrite with an open beer can riding his bicycle the wrong way into traffic, an officer detained him. Sacrite appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. During the detention, the officer observed bulges in his pocket. The officer could tell there was “something solid” with round edges “similar to a cell phone” in the pocket. Because the officer did not know what the object was, he conducted a pat search of Sacrite to determine whether the bulges were a weapon. He concluded the bulges were possibly a cell phone and a lighter. He then conducted a field sobriety test, and arrested Sacrite. After the arrest, the officer removed a cell phone, lighter, and bag of methamphetamine from the pocket with the bulges. Sacrite was charged with a drug offense and using or being under the influence of a controlled substance. His motion to suppress evidence was denied and he appealed, arguing that the pat search was unlawful and the officer acted unlawfully by removing the items from his pocket after the pat search. Held: Affirmed. A pat search may be conducted where an officer’s observations lead the officer reasonably to conclude in light of his experience, and based on specific and articulable facts, that the person with whom he is dealing may be armed and presently dangerous. (Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1.) Here, the officer was able to point to specific and articulable facts that would lead a reasonable officer to conclude that the bulge might be a weapon. He did not need to be absolutely certain the defendant was armed before conducting a pat search. Additionally, the items were lawfully removed from defendant’s pocket as part of a search incident to arrest. [Editor’s Note: Justice Mihara dissented, concluding that the pat search was unjustified because the officer did not identify any fact suggesting that Sacrite was armed.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/H044419.PDF