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Name: People v. Superior Court (Chapman)
Case #: B233816
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 03/29/2012
Summary

Reentry of a residence by police officers to seize items in plain view following the initial search justified under exigent circumstances and consent does not violate the Fourth Amendment. Police arrived at a residence in response to a call of shots fired in the house. Chapman and his girlfriend complied with directives to exit and Chapman was immediately placed in handcuffs. A patdown search revealed a loaded pistol in his pocket. The girlfriend screamed hysterically, “help us, he shot him,” pointing toward Chapman and Chapman kept saying, “Just help him,” referring to his son. Police entered the residence and found the son dead. They also observed shell casings on the ground in the kitchen area, bullet holes in the walls, and blood. Nothing was disturbed and a patrol officer was placed on guard, and Chapman was taken to the police station. Shortly thereafter, detectives arrived and, without obtaining a warrant, did walk-throughs of the residence. The trial court granted Chapman’s motion to suppress the findings of these subsequent entries and the People filed a writ petition challenging the order. The appellate court reversed. The court found that the initial entry was justified on exigency grounds, as well as appellant’s implied consent when he said, “Just help him.” Although an independent justification generally is required for each separate warrantless entry by police, California decisions uphold an officer’s reentry to seize evidence observed in plain view during a prior lawful entry that was not seized because the officer was performing a duty that took priority over the seizure of evidence. Here, the initial police entry was justified under exigent circumstances and appellant’s qualified consent. Leaving an officer to secure the earlier-lawfully-entered residence justified the seizure of plain-view evidence by the subsequent warrantless searches where there is an uninterrupted police presence in the residence. These close-in-time searches for evidence in plain view did not constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment. As to evidence not in plain view — here a shell casing under the body of the deceased — the doctrine of inevitable discovery justified its seizure in the subsequent searches.