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Name: People v. Smith
Case #: B219915
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 11/29/2010

The standard used to measure the scope of a suspect’s consent to search is objective reasonableness. A search based on officer safety is evaluated under a balancing test that considers the state’s interest in officer safety and the intrusiveness of the search. Police and probation officers were conducting a series of probation compliance checks at a housing complex. They went to defendant’s home – a probationer having provided the address as his residence. When they advised defendant of their reason for being there, she stated that the probationer did not live there, and they could go ahead and check it out, but just she and her kids and her brother were there. As one of the officers walked toward the kitchen, he smelled a strong odor of marijuana and noted that the clothes dryer was making a loud noise, as if there was something metal inside it. He opened the door to turn the dryer off, and as he did so, he observed packaged marijuana and change inside the dryer. Reviewing the trial court’s denial of appellant’s suppression motion, the appellate court found that there was substantial evidence that defendant voluntarily consented to the officers’ entry. Defendant opened the door for the officers, stated that they could look for the probationer, and stepped aside, allowing them entry. The court further found that opening the dryer door to stop the noise was objectively reasonable. Although defendant indicated that only her brother and children were upstairs, the sought-after probationer also could have been upstairs. There was evidence of narcotics present in the residence, and firearms are “tools of the trade” in the narcotics business. In order to safely order any people that were upstairs to come downstairs, the officer needed to stop the noise from the dryer. Opening the door to the dryer was a minimal intrusion to achieve this end which was reasonable under these circumstances. And once the door was open, the contraband was in plain view.