Monday, February 23, 2015

In Re D.D. (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 23, 2015)

"On November 1, 2013, San Francisco Police Officer Duncan Duffin and his partner, Francisco Chicas, were working as a robbery abatement team. A series of armed and unarmed robberies had been committed within two blocks of the Glen Park and Balboa Park BART stations, mostly by young males (teenaged or in their early 20’s) who were wearing loose-fitting dark-colored hooded sweatshirts or pullovers and pants. At about 4:00 p.m., the uniformed officers were patrolling the area around the Balboa Park station in an unmarked vehicle. They saw two teenaged males wearing hooded sweatshirts and blue jeans standing in front of a parked Pontiac Grand Prix in a San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) employee parking lot near a Muni maintenance yard. The lot had signs indicating it was for Muni employees only and prohibiting trespassing.

The officers pulled over, and Duffin noticed smoke in the vicinity of the young men (D.D. & K.H.). He also saw D.D. look directly at the officers and then turn and enter the front passenger’s side of the Grand Prix. As the officers exited their car and approached the young men, Duffin smelled a strong odor of marijuana. He asked K.H., “Who has got the weed?” K.H. admitted having marijuana.

Duffin motioned with his hand for D.D. to exit the Grand Prix. When D.D. got out, Duffin asked for his name and identification. D.D. provided a false name and said he did not have identification. Dispatch had no record for the name given by D.D. D.D. was advised that Duffin and Chicas were investigating a series of robberies in the area. D.D. denied having any weapons on his person and did not tell Duffin who owned the Grand Prix. When asked why he was on Muni property, D.D. answered hesitantly and avoided the question. D.D. appeared apprehensive and nervous, and he kept looking left and right up and down the street without making eye contact with Duffin. As D.D. moved around, he kept repositioning his right hip away from Duffin: D.D. stood in a bladed stance, with one foot forward and one foot in the back at about a 45 degree angle and, as Duffin moved, he would pivot so his right hip was always pointed away from the officer. Duffin testified that, based on his experience and training, he believed D.D. was carrying a weapon at his right hip.

Duffin decided to search D.D. for weapons out of concern for the officers’ safety. D.D. placed his hands on the back of his head, and Duffin used his left hand to secure D.D.’s hands. Using his right hand, Duffin lifted the right side of D.D.’s sweatshirt and saw a semiautomatic black handgun at D.D.’s right hip, tucked in his waistband. Duffin removed the gun, placed it on the ground, and arrested D.D. Chicas examined the gun, a semiautomatic nine-millimeter Glock pistol, and determined that it was loaded with a live round in the chamber. It was stipulated that D.D. was 15 years old at the time of the incident."

That sounds like pretty good police work to me.  And I agree with every word of Justice Bruniers' opinion that holds that what the police did was proper.  That the police officers "saw two young men standing in a nonpublic Muni parking area, observed smoke near the men, and smelled marijuana" did indeed "provide some objective manifestation that D.D. and K.H. might have been trespassing and smoking marijuana, thus justifying an investigatory detention," and the fact that these kids "were in the general vicinity of a recent spate of robberies and were in clothing and of an age group that generally corresponded with descriptions of the robbers" rightly "added to the officers’ reasonable suspicion of criminal activity."  Similarly, while I understand the minor's argument that the police could not be sure that the minors were trespassing "because he and K.H. could have been Muni employees," neither I nor the Court of Appeal are ignorant of the world.  Justice Bruniers is right that '[g]iven the suspects’ young age, casual clothing, and apparent leisurely, lingering behavior smoking in front of a parked car, the officers had objective grounds to suspect D.D. and K.H. were not Muni employees with a legitimate reason to be present in the parking area, but were knowing trespassers on the clearly marked private lot."

What both the police as well as the Court of Appeal does here makes a ton of sense to me.