Cal.1: Cell phone ping to find def after a stabbing was with exigent circumstances

Police having defendant’s cell phone pinged to find him after a stabbing he was alleged to have done in a populated area was with exigent circumstances and reasonable. People v. Bowen, 2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 659 (1st Dist. July 15, 2020):

Here, at the time Officer Adams requested a ping of defendant’s cell phone, the information available to him was that less than an hour earlier Dennis N. had been repeatedly stabbed in the neck in an unprovoked attack, within 200 yards of a preschool and near a shopping center and multiple neighborhoods. Further, the suspect, who was possibly still armed with a knife, had fled on foot. The area where the witnesses indicated the defendant had headed was a several-hundred-yard field with multiple entrances and exits leading to a creek trail, houses and apartment complexes, and a store; and there are “hundreds of people moving about” the area. The police were actively looking for defendant when they received the CSLI. Based upon the circumstances known to Officer Adams, he believed it was imperative that the suspect be found as soon as possible to prevent another possible unprovoked attack. We agree with the trial court’s determination that the exigent circumstances exception applies under the facts of this case, and defendant’s motion to suppress was properly denied.

Defendant cites People v. Ramey (1976) 16 Cal.3d 263 and argues that the circumstances here were not “an emergency situation requiring swift action to prevent imminent danger to life[.]” (Ramey, at p. 276.) Ramey involved a warrantless arrest in the defendant’s home, and the court found that under the circumstances of Ramey’s arrest for the nonviolent crime of receipt of stolen property, there was no imminent danger to life or property and no likelihood of flight or destruction of evidence. (Ramey, at p. 276.) Here, the circumstances are readily distinguishable from Ramey, and we find they support a finding of exigent circumstances. (See ibid. [“There is no ready litmus test for determining whether [exigent] circumstances exist, and in each case the claim of an extraordinary situation must be measured by the facts known to the officers”].)

Because we find the exigent circumstances exception applied here, we do not reach the People’s alternative argument that the police acted in good faith reliance upon section 1546.1, subdivision (h).

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