Cal.1: Def’s lie about his identity to avoid probation search estopped his 4A argument; search valid even if officer didn’t know about probation

Officers believed defendant was involved in a robbery and shot himself. At the ER, defendant lied and gave a false name because he was on probation with a search condition. Defendant’s lie about his identity is an estoppel. He was on probation, he lied about it, and any illegal search he claims wasn’t if the officer knew the truth. People v. Mathews, 2017 Cal. App. LEXIS 932 (1st Dist. Oct. 25, 2017):

Having concluded that it is appropriate to follow Watkins, we turn to address its application in this case. Mathews argues that “[e]ven under Watkins, [Officer Ballard-Geiger’s] actions violated” the Fourth Amendment. He claims that the evidence shows that Officer Ballard-Geiger did not run a record check on “Damari Johnson” until after seizing the cell phone, so it was the officer’s failure to do a record check, not the provision of a false name, that prevented the officer from learning of the search condition.

We do not agree with either the trial court or Mathews about the relevant point in time after which a defendant who provides a false name to a police officer is estopped under Watkins from challenging the validity of a search or seizure. The court ruled that estoppel was triggered when Mathews gave a false name, and Mathews argues that it was triggered when Officer Ballard-Geiger ran the record check on “Damari Johnson.” We conclude, however, that estoppel is triggered when an officer receives the results from a record check based on a false name.

In many cases, all three events will happen nearly simultaneously, as they did in Watkins. (See Watkins, supra, 170 Cal.App.4th at p. 1406.) But, as the facts here illustrate, this is not always the case. Officer Ballard-Geiger testified that it was possible he did not run a record check on “Damari Johnson” until up to 20 minutes after Mathews gave the name to him, and the officer received the results a few minutes after running the check. Until Officer Ballard-Geiger actually ran the record check and received the results, the false name did not prevent him from discovering the search condition. We therefore conclude that Mathews is estopped from challenging the seizure of the cell phone and the evidence derived from it only if the seizure occurred after 6:36 p.m., when Officer Ballard-Geiger received the results of the record check on “Damari Johnson.”

Contrary to Mathews’s position otherwise, substantial evidence in the record shows that the seizure occurred after 6:36 p.m. In arguing that Officer Ballard-Geiger seized the cell phone before running a check on “Damari Johnson,” Mathews fails to recognize that we must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s ruling and resolve any conflicts in favor of that ruling. (Tully, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 979; People v. Limon, supra, 17 Cal.App.4th at p. 529.) We acknowledge that the officer’s testimony was inconsistent on the timing of some events at the hospital. He initially testified that he seized the phone based on the search condition, and he later indicated that he was unsure whether the seizure occurred before or after he knew about the condition. But throughout his testimony, he remained clear that he ran the check on “Damari Johnson” before he “took physical custody of the phone.” Because it is not reasonable to infer that Officer Ballard-Geiger obtained the phone from the safe during the two or three minutes it took for the results of the check to come back, this testimony is sufficient to establish that the phone was not seized until after the officer would have known about the search condition but for Mathews’s dishonesty. Therefore, under Watkins, Mathews is estopped from challenging the admission of the phone and the other evidence derived from it.

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