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The People v. Brian Boulter

September 29, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
BRIAN BOULTER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, C. H. Rhem, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BA373986)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mosk, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Affirmed.

INTRODUCTION

Defendant and appellant Brian Boulter (defendant) pleaded no contest to possession for sale of a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, § 11378). On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. We hold that a search of the jail lockers into which defendant, a jail visitor, put belongings was, under the circumstances, an appropriate and valid administrative search. Thus, we affirm the judgment.

BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background*fn1

At the time of defendant's arrest, the lockers at the Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles were outdoors on jail property, and made available for use by jail visitors to secure property prohibited inside the jail's visitors center, which was indoors. The lockers were approximately 41 feet from the entrance to the visitors center, at which entrance there was a sign stating that no cameras, cellular telephones, recording devices, or purses were allowed inside the visitors center, and another sign stating, "Warning: persons entering this area are subject to the laws affecting a custody facility. You and your possessions are subject to search at any time." A sign was posted near the lockers also stating that no cameras, cellular telephones, recording devices, or purses were allowed inside the visitors center. Visitors did not pass through metal detectors and were not searched before they had access to the lockers. Visitors did not need permission from a jail representative to use an available locker.

Because a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department deputy observed defendant inside the visitors center with a camera, the deputy arrested defendant, believing defendant to be in violation of Penal Code section 4575.*fn2 Another deputy sheriff searched defendant "incident to the arrest" and recovered two keys for lockers for jail visitors. That deputy sheriff used the keys to search the two lockers. Inside the lockers were bags with a substance that resembled methamphetamine, twelve pills, and a scale. A deputy sheriff testified that the lockers would not have been searched had they not found the keys to the lockers in defendant's possession.

B. Procedural Background

The District Attorney of Los Angeles County filed an information charging defendant with three counts of possession of a controlled substance in a jail (Pen. Code, § 4573.6), one count of possession for sale of a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, § 11378), and three counts of bringing drugs into a jail (Pen. Code, § 4573). Defendant pleaded not guilty, and filed a motion to suppress evidence pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5. The trial court denied defendant's motion. Pursuant to a plea agreement, defendant changed his plea to the count charging him with possession for sale of a controlled substance to no contest, and the remaining counts were dismissed. The trial court suspended the imposition of a sentence, and placed defendant on three years' probation.

C. Motion to Suppress

Defendant by his motion to suppress evidence pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5, sought to suppress evidence of "all items found inside the locker(s)" because they were seized without probable cause or a warrant. At the hearing, the prosecutor argued that the search constituted an administrative search--a valid warrantless search. In addition to arguing that the search was a valid administrative search, the prosecutor contended that the search also was valid because it was conducted in conjunction with defendant being arrested.

The trial court denied defendant's motion, stating, "The question is whether common habits in the use of property result in a reasonable expectation of privacy in a given situation. [¶] . . . It . . . is reasonable to infer [that the jail rules] were established to, among other things, prevent escape. [Defendant] was put on notice when he entered the facility that by entering, he voluntarily consented to be searched. His expectation of privacy was thus decreased. And the court finds no constitutional infirmity in what happened here. [¶] The deputy's probable cause upon seeing [defendant] with a camera to believe that the rules of the facility had been violated, the subsequent search and the subsequent seizure of the subject items were all, in this court's mind, within the requirements of the ...


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