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Name: People v. Stier
Case #: D051505
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/05/2008
Summary

Handcuffing a suspect may result in a de facto arrest requiring probable cause, and a suspect’s height alone does not provide justification to handcuff. When a police officer has an objective, reasonable, articulate suspicion that a person has committed or is about to commit a crime, he may temporarily detain him, but the detention must be accomplished using the least intrusive means available under the circumstances. Handcuffing a detained suspect is sanctioned only where the officer believes his safety is at issue. Here, Drug Enforcement agents informed San Diego police officers that they had just witnessed a drug transaction committed by the occupants of a vehicle driven by appellant. The officers followed the vehicle and, after noticing that the mud flaps were too small and that a passenger might not be wearing a seat belt, stopped it. In response to an officer’s request, appellant exited the vehicle and when he did, the officer observed that appellant was quite tall (6’6″), and handcuffed him. The officer testified that other than finding appellant’s height disconcerting, he found appellant to be very cooperative, mellow, easygoing, and had no reason to believe he was armed or possessed drugs. After handcuffing appellant, the officer searched him and found methamphetamine in his pocket. The appellate court found that the prosecution failed to establish that the handcuffing was necessary to the detention and, therefore, the detention was unlawful and, as such, provided no grounds for the search. Accordingly, the trial court erred in denying appellant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained in the search.