Friday, September 02, 2022

U.S. v. Guerrero (9th Cir. - Sept. 2, 2022)

Here's a neat little reminder about how one deciphers the "holding" of an opinion when each of the judges on the court writes separately to articulate an idiosyncratic view about how the case should come out.

Mr. Guerrero was stopped for tinted windows while driving a passenger vehicle, had 20,000 rounds of (legal) ammunition in plain sight in his vehicle, was on a highway 20 minutes away from his home in Tucson, and was super cooperative and consented to a search, but the police officer put him in handcuffs and detained him for an hour while he brought in federal officials to see whether the guy should be busted for attempted ammunition smuggling to Mexico.

Judge Gould says that Mr. Guerrero (1) was arrested, but that (2) there was probable cause for his arrest. Judge Bea says that Mr. Guerrero (1) wasn't arrested, but was only "detained," so there doesn't need to be probable cause, but (2) there was probable cause anyway. Judge Sidney Thomas says Mr. Guerrero (1) was arrested, but that (3) there wasn't probable cause.

So what's the holding, if any?

Answer: That (1) it was an arrest, (2) with probable cause. Basically what Judge Gould says.

Even though technically the result is contained in a two-page per curiam opinion that says basically nothing. (And that doesn't mention how one interprets these types of cases and instead says only "We affirm the denial of Guerrero’s motion to suppress because of the consistent conclusions of Judge Gould and Judge Bea, representing a majority of the panel, that we should affirm the denial of the motion to suppress. Affirmance is required by the conclusions of the judges in the majority, even though the reasoning of Judge Gould and Judge Bea in their separate concurrences filed herewith is different.")