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Name: People v. Velasco
Case #: H035083
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/29/2011

Failure of prison authorities to collect and preserve evidence that is not potentially exculpatory does not violate a prisoner’s right to due process. Appellant, an inmate in the California Department of Corrections, was found in possession of an inmate-manufactured shank. The item was secreted in an inmate-manufactured pocket behind the fly on the interior of appellant’s boxer shorts. Correctional officers seized the weapon but returned the shorts to appellant. The trial court denied appellant’s motion to dismiss the case on grounds the state failed to gather and preserve evidence, i.e., the shorts. The appellate court affirmed. Due process requires the state to preserve potentially exculpable evidence in its possession but, unless the state acts in bad faith, there is no duty to continue investigating a crime and obtain evidence once it has established probable cause. (Arizona v. Youngblood (1988) 488 U.S. 51; California v. Trombetta (1984) 467 U.S. 479.) Here, because discovery and seizure of the weapon established probable cause for the crime of inmate in possession of a deadly weapon, allowing appellant to keep the shorts did not result in a due process violation. Further, because there was no potential exculpatory evidentiary value to the shorts, the officers had no duty to gather and retain them as evidence.