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Name: People v. Seminoff
Case #: G037484
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 01/29/2008

The right of cross-examination may transcend the right against self-incrimination when the credibility of the witness is central to the proceeding. At appellant’s hearing pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5, the police officer testified that he entered the hotel room where appellant’s girlfriend, Bassett, and her four-year-old son were staying, after the child came into the hotel lobby and said he could not wake his mother. Following entry, the officer smelled marijuana, saw a gun magazine, and then searched the room and found 46 pounds of packaged marijuana, and paperwork belonging to appellant. Bassett’s testimony on direct examination, rebutted that of the officer’s. On cross examination, however, she asserted her right against self-incrimination and refused to answer questions concerning the marijuana. The trial court struck her entire testimony and, on the basis of the officer’s testimony, denied the suppression motion. The appellate court affirmed, observing that even when a witness has a valid Fifth Amendment privilege, the defendant is not entitled to present testimony free of impeachment. Here, under the totality of the circumstances, the court did not abuse its discretion in striking the testimony nor did it violate appellant’s right to due process or to present evidence. The warrantless search was justified under the exigency exception, i.e., necessary to preserve life or avoid serious injury.