Friday, March 04, 2011

People v. Troyer (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Feb. 22, 2011)

I'd have liked the California Supreme Court to at least address the policy consequences of its decision here.

Seems to me that one consequence of this holding is to deter people in an emergency from calling 911.  The 911 call recounted a shooting in which a person had been shot by suspects driving a two-door Chevrolet, and the police responded.  When they got to the house, they saw an injured woman on the front porch who had been shot.  The suspect's vehicle was nowhere in sight, but the owner of the house was tending to the shot woman.  The police ask the owner what happened to the suspects, at which point the owner responds that they fled westbound in a two-door Chevy Tahoe.

The police then ask if anyone's inside the house.  The owner waits for a while in responding, and eventually says "I don't think so."  The police then ask again, and the owner stares at the police for a long time, and then says:  "No."

The police then ask for permission to search the premises.  The owner expressly says "No."

Why do you think he's saying "No?"  The police have a keen idea.  So they search the house anyway, without consent and without getting a warrant.  Allegedly looking for other victims or other people in the house.  But in fact finding drugs.

The Court of Appeal hold the search to be a violation of the Fourth Amendment.  The California Supreme Court reverses.  With Justices Kennard and Moreno dissenting.

Remember that rule the next time you're thinking about calling 911.  There's an upside:  the injured person may receive vital treatment.  But there's also a big downside:  the police may also search your home without your consent.  And when you've got marijuana in there, that may potentially result (as here) in a prison term.

Which may make someone think twice.  Which the relevant social consequences.  Which seems to me to be something at least worth mention.