Trial court’s granting of motion to suppress reversed where detention of bus passenger was justified by citizen informant’s tip that defendant matched the picture on a “Be on the Lookout” flier issued the same day. Police Officer Tanaka responded to a dispatch reporting that a bus driver had spotted a suspect in a child molestation case on a San Jose bus. The bus driver said that a passenger on his bus matched the picture in a police “Be on the Lookout” flier issued that day regarding a child sexual assault that had occurred two days earlier. Based on this information, Stanley was detained and identified himself. Tanaka learned from dispatch that Stanley was on parole, so Tanaka searched him and found drugs. When police received pictures of the child molestation suspect, they determined it was not Stanley. Defendant was charged with drug offenses. The trial court granted his motion to suppress evidence and the prosecution appealed. Held: Reversed. In reviewing the trial court’s suppression order, the reviewing court defers to its factual findings if supported by substantial evidence and independently assesses whether the challenged search satisfies the Fourth Amendment. The propriety of an investigatory detention is based on the totality of the circumstances. The officer’s suspicion must be supported by some articulable facts that are reasonably consistent with criminal activity. Here, the bus driver was a “true citizen informant” who voluntarily provided Tanaka with information that appeared to connect Stanley to the commission of a crime. A citizen informant is considered reliable because she “can be held responsible if her allegations turn out to be fabricated.” The bus driver’s information was sufficient to justify Stanley’s brief detention to determine whether he was the suspect sought in the child molestation case. This intrusion was minimal considering the seriousness of the offense for which the suspect was sought. The court distinguished People v. Walker (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1372.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/H043445.PDF