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The People v. Aaron Ray Wilson

December 29, 2010


(Super. Ct. No. 085179)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blease, Acting P.J.

P. v. Wilson CA3


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.


Following the denial of his motion to suppress (Pen. Code, § 1538.5),*fn1 a jury found defendant Aaron Ray Wilson guilty of carrying a concealed dirk or dagger (§ 12020, subd. (a)(4)). In a bifurcated proceeding, the trial court found true allegations defendant had three prior strike convictions (§ 667, subds. (b)-(i)) and served three prior prison terms (§ 667.5, subd. (b)).

Sentenced to 28 years to life in state prison,*fn2 defendant appeals, contending, among other things, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress a knife (the alleged dirk or dagger) seized from his back pocket during a pat down search initiated after a police officer was dispatched to a public park to investigate "five subjects [possibly] smoking H and S in the men's restroom."*fn3 Defendant argues his detention was unlawful because it "was based entirely on an uncorroborated anonymous tip" and "the seizure of the knife was the result of police exploitation of [that] unlawful detention."

We shall conclude that the officer who detained and searched defendant lacked the reasonable suspicion necessary to justify the detention, and that the knife was fruit of defendant's unlawful detention. Accordingly, we shall reverse the judgment and remand the matter to the trial court with directions to vacate its order denying defendant's motion to suppress.*fn4


Prior to trial, defendant moved to suppress the evidence seized during an investigatory stop and search of his person, including the alleged dirk or dagger that was the basis for the sole charge against him, on the ground it was obtained as the result of an unlawful search.

Officer Gina Bell of the Woodland Police Department was the only witness to testify at the hearing on defendant's motion. She testified as follows: At approximately 3:00 p.m. on September 24, 2008, she "was dispatched to five subjects," three males and two females, possibly smoking an illegal substance inside the men's restroom at Harris Park in Woodland.*fn5 So far as the record reveals, there is no audio recording of the report made to law enforcement, and nothing is known about the reporting party or when the report was made.

When Bell arrived at the location specified in the dispatch, she saw three males and two females, including defendant and his wife, standing in a circle near the restrooms. Bell recognized three of the five people, not including defendant, "from prior police contacts." One of the individuals, not defendant, was known by Bell to wear a buck knife "four inches, always visible, in a sheath on his right side."

Bell, who was in uniform and armed, immediately asked the five individuals to sit on a curb "for officer safety purpose[s]" because "[t]here was [sic] five of them and one of me." They complied, and she radioed for assistance. Bell waited with the five individuals until two additional officers arrived. She then checked in and around the restrooms, while the other officers kept watch over the five individuals. Bell found a small plastic baggie floating in a toilet in the women's restroom. There was nothing in the baggie; however, she had seen contraband in that type of bag in the past, and based on her training and experience, knew "people try to flush contraband, and plastic baggies float."

When Bell finished checking the restrooms, she questioned and searched each of the five individuals one after the other. Three individuals were questioned and searched before defendant. The first indicated he was on parole, was searched, and released. The second consented to a search of her bag, a methamphetamine pipe was recovered, and she was placed under arrest. The third, who carried the visible buck knife, was searched and released. Defendant advised Bell that he was not on parole or probation, and Bell asked him "if he had anything on him he shouldn't have and he did not answer." Defendant conversed with his wife, and Bell overheard defendant's wife mention something about knives. Bell asked defendant about the ...

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