APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, William R. Chidsey, Jr., Judge. Reversed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. TA087989).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aldrich, J.
CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION
Defendant and appellant Shannon Marquis Strider appeals from the judgment entered following a jury trial that resulted in his conviction for possession of a controlled substance, cocaine base, with a firearm. Strider was sentenced to a prison term of two years.
Strider contends the trial court erred by denying his pretrial suppression motion. We agree, and therefore reverse.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
1. Evidence Elicited at the Hearing On the Suppression Motion*fn1
Viewing the record in the light most favorable to the trial court's ruling (People v. Davis (2005) 36 Cal.4th 510, 528-529), the following relevant evidence was adduced at the hearing on the suppression motion. On December 5, 2006, at approximately 6:20 p.m., Deputy Jason Bates and his partner, Deputy William Zollo, were on routine patrol in Compton in their police cruiser. Bates observed Strider and another man standing in the fenced front yard of a single family house located at 1356 Schinner Street, near the porch. A wrought iron fence ran along the entire front and east side of the property, connecting with a solid wood fence. There was a gate in the middle of the wrought iron fence. To get to the house via the front door, one had to enter through the gate. A third man had just entered the yard, and was standing next to the gate, which was open.
Bates did not know Strider or the other two men. He was aware that the house was a "known Southside Crip gang hang out" and that the owner of the residence produced rap music "in the back." There had been shootings in the area.
Strider looked directly at the officers, turned to his right, and quickly walked to the front door of the residence. Bates observed Strider's face and the front half of his body.
When Strider turned, Bates observed the butt of a chrome and black handgun protruding from his left rear pants pocket. Bates immediately exited the patrol car and ran after Strider. Strider entered the house and slammed the front security door, which Bates could see through. Bates followed, immediately opened the door, and observed Strider quickly walking towards the kitchen. Bates told Strider to stop. Strider dropped a baggie containing a substance resembling rock cocaine on the kitchen floor, and then complied with Bates's demand. Bates retrieved a loaded, chrome and black, Smith and Wesson .40-caliber, semiautomatic handgun from Strider's pocket. The deputies handcuffed Strider, and Bates recovered the cocaine. Another man was already in the house. In response to Bates's query, the other man stated that he lived at the house, but Strider did not.
Strider's brother lived at the house and either owned or leased it. Strider did not have to ask for permission to enter and exit the property. The rap studio was located in a detached garage behind the house. A man named Donnie Mitchell, along with his father, rented a room in the house. In addition to the wrought iron fence, a brick and wood fence enclosed the west side of the property.
Tyvon Green and Bobby Williams had just entered the yard through the gate when the deputies entered the yard. They were heading toward the music studio. Strider testified that he had not been in the yard, but had been standing in the doorway of the house when he observed the deputies arrive with their lights off. They entered the yard and pointed their guns at Green. Strider closed the door and went to tell "everybody who was in the back" what was going on. Bates then burst through the front door. Strider denied possession of a gun or dropping a baggie containing drugs.
c. The Trial Court's Ruling
The trial court denied the motion, finding the detention and entry into the home were constitutionally permissible under the totality of the circumstances. The court concluded the yard was a public area because it was exposed and visible to public view, reasoning, "when you're in public, i.e., even though you're on your private property, you're deemed to be in public." The exigent circumstances doctrine justified Bates's entry ...