PEOPLE v. WEDDLE

Reset A A Font size: Print

Court of Appeal, First District, Division 3, California.

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Michael Erich WEDDLE, Defendant and Appellant.

No. A053801.

Decided: July 10, 1992

Randall J. Bobus, Santa Rosa, for defendant and appellant. Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., George Williamson, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., John H. Sugiyama, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Ronald E. Niver, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., Bruce Ortega, Deputy Atty. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and respondent.

Following his plea of guilty to one count of transporting methamphetamine (Health & Saf.Code, § 11379), defendant Michael Erich Weddle appeals from the judgment.   He challenges a ruling denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a search incident to his arrest.   He maintains he was unlawfully arrested on a warrant issued for the same charges on which he had previously been arrested, booked, and released.   We hold defendant was arrested by an invalid warrant, there was no good-faith exception to its invalidity and evidence seized as a result of the illegal arrest should have been suppressed.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

At approximately 11:45 p.m. on December 28, 1987, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department was dispatched to a house trailer occupied by Karen Hall, defendant's former girlfriend.   According to Hall's neighbor, defendant had driven his truck into Hall's trailer and had caused damage.   The interior of the trailer had also been vandalized.   Hall described defendant's truck to the investigating officer.

City of Cloverdale Police Officer Kevin Griffin was on patrol when he heard a report of the vandalism and a description of defendant's truck over the radio.   Sometime later, Griffin stopped and arrested defendant for driving while under the influence of alcohol.   Defendant was turned over to the sheriff's department and transported to the Sonoma County jail on the drunk driving charge and additional charges from the sheriff's office.

On January 19, 1988, defendant appeared in court to enter a plea to the charges resulting from his December 29, 1987 arrest.   Since no complaint had been filed, the matter was continued to February 10, 1988.   On February 10, it was discovered that a double filing had taken place against defendant on the drunk driving charge.   Defendant was charged with a violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (a) in case number TCR 85678;  he was charged with violating Penal Code 1 sections 606, 12025, 594, subdivision (b) and Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (a) in case number MCR 86093.2  Since no complaint was filed on case number 86093, that case was dropped.   A settlement conference on case number 85678 was set for April 7.

On April 7, defendant entered a plea of guilty to driving while under the influence.   The court accepted the plea and pronounced judgment.

On May 17, 1988, a warrant was issued for defendant's arrest.   The warrant was based upon an unexecuted declaration that the undersigned police officer in the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department had been assigned to investigate allegations that defendant had committed violations of sections 594, subdivision (a) and 12025.   In support of the declaration a five-page police report was attached.   The report described the events of December 28 and December 29, 1987.

On October 26, 1988, Kevin Griffin, the same officer who had arrested defendant in the early morning of December 29, 1987, stopped defendant while he was riding his motorcycle in the City of Cloverdale.   At the time of the stop, Griffin was aware of the outstanding warrant for defendant's arrest.   After stopping defendant, the officer called to confirm the existence of the warrant.   When Griffin received confirmation, he took defendant into custody.   Defendant was searched immediately after being arrested.   Two large packages of methamphetamine were found in his pocket and form the basis of the present charges against defendant.

DISCUSSION

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation.”   It is undisputed the warrant in this case is invalid since the “complaint upon oath” referred to in the warrant was unsworn and unsigned.

In United States v. Leon (1984) 468 U.S. 897, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 82 L.Ed.2d 677, the United States Supreme Court held that evidence seized pursuant to the service of an invalid search warrant need not be suppressed where police officers serving the warrant relied on its validity in objectively reasonable good faith.  (Id., at p. 926, 104 S.Ct. at p. 3422.)   However, the good-faith exception does not apply where the magistrate issuing the warrant was misled by information in the affidavit that the affiant knew or should have known was false, where the magistrate wholly abandoned his judicial role, or where the supporting affidavit is so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.  (Id., at p. 923, 104 S.Ct. at p. 3421.)  Leon 's objective reasonableness standard for the good-faith exception applies not only to officers who serve a warrant, but also to “officers who originally obtained it or who provided information material to the probable-cause determination.”  (Id., at p. 923, fn. 24, 104 S.Ct. at p. 3420, fn. 24.)   The Leon rule appears to be equally applicable to service of arrest warrants.  (See, e.g., Malley v. Briggs (1986) 475 U.S. 335, 344, fn. 6, 106 S.Ct. 1092, 1097, fn. 6, 89 L.Ed.2d 271;  People v. Palmer (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 663, 666, 255 Cal.Rptr. 55.)

In People v. Ramirez (1983) 34 Cal.3d 541, 194 Cal.Rptr. 454, 668 P.2d 761, a case decided by the California Supreme Court prior to Leon, the court held an arrest based solely on a recalled bench warrant was made without probable cause.   The court reasoned that while the arresting officer acted in good faith reliance on the information communicated to him through official channels, “law enforcement officials are collectively responsible for keeping those channels free of outdated, incomplete, and inaccurate warrant information.”  (Id., at p. 552, 194 Cal.Rptr. 454, 668 P.2d 761.)

In People v. Dickens (1984) 163 Cal.App.3d 377, 208 Cal.Rptr. 751, a case remarkably similar to the instant action, the defendant was arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant and drugs were found on his person.   The arrest warrant was issued solely upon police reports chronicling the events and circumstances surrounding a previous arrest for which the defendant had been booked and released pending his court appearance.   Relying on Ramirez, the court found the action of the police officers in obtaining the arrest warrant for the defendant on charges for which they knew, or should have known, he had been arrested, booked and released, was the result of inadequate or negligent record-keeping.  (Id., at p. 381, 208 Cal.Rptr. 751.)   The court also found Leon 's good-faith exception inapplicable to the facts in Dickens.  (Id., at pp. 381–382, fn. 4, 208 Cal.Rptr. 751.)

More recently, in People v. Ivey (1991) 228 Cal.App.3d 1423, 279 Cal.Rptr. 554, Division Five of this district held that police officers may not rely on the good-faith exception to validate an arrest if the arrest warrant is negligently delayed in being recalled and the warrant is erroneously shown as still outstanding.  (Id., at p. 1425, 279 Cal.Rptr. 554.)

 In the case at bench, we need not address the good-faith reliance by the arresting officer;  there is no good-faith exception for the officer who obtained the arrest warrant.   Although he was never called to testify, the district attorney's opposition to defendant's suppression motion indicates that James Kaufman obtained the arrest warrant.   However, Kaufman's unsigned declaration states that “by means of personal contact or by means of written communication [he] has obtained information from other officers and from other persons who have knowledge of the above-mentioned offense.   The reports and statements of such officers and other persons are attached hereto and incorporated by reference as though fully set forth;  that he has reviewed each of these written reports and statements which consist of 5 pages;  these reports and statements contain information from victim, witness and others concerning the criminal offense for which this Complaint is being sought;  [¶] That this Declaration is made and filed herein for the purpose of showing probable cause for the issuance of a Warrant of Arrest for the above-named Defendant.”   Page two of the five-page police report indicates defendant was taken into custody and his vehicle impounded on December 29, 1987.   Page five of the report specifically states:  “I made contact with (s) Weddle who had been transported to Cloverdale P.D.   Upon contact with (s) Weddle I advised him that he was in custody for carrying a concealed firearm in his vehicle and for suspicion of vandalism on his ex-girlfriend[']s trailer.”

It is clear from the documentation annexed to the unsigned declaration that all information supporting the application for an arrest warrant was based on events surrounding defendant's first arrest;  no additional information of wrongdoing by defendant was alleged.   Moreover, the report shows on its face that defendant had been arrested on the charges.   Thus, there can be no good-faith reliance on the part of the officer who originally applied for the arrest warrant that there was probable cause to arrest defendant.   Pursuant to Justice Panelli's reasoning in Dickens, since there was no probable cause to arrest the defendant for a second time on the same charges, the fruits of the search incident to the illegal arrest must be suppressed.  (People v. Dickens, supra, 163 Cal.App.3d at p. 381, 208 Cal.Rptr. 751.)

Having determined there was no probable cause to arrest defendant and no good-faith exception for the officer making application for the warrant, we need not determine the effect of an unsigned declaration in support of the warrant.   (Cf. People v. Palmer, supra, 207 Cal.App.3d 663, 255 Cal.Rptr. 55 [no supporting affidavit required for bench warrant issued for subpoenaed witness who does not appear].)

DISPOSITION

The judgment is reversed.

FOOTNOTES

FN1. All further statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise indicated..  FN1. All further statutory references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise indicated.

2.   It appears from the record the two cases were consolidated.

WHITE, Presiding Justice.

MERRILL and WERDEGAR, JJ., concur.