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The People v. Brandy Deann Ermi

May 14, 2013

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
BRANDY DEANN ERMI, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



Donald Coleman, Judge Superior Court County of Los Angeles (Super. Ct. No. 2011027528)

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

(Ventura County)

A probationer may devise a method to hide illicit drugs. "Search terms" allow a peace officer to search any area over which the probationer has control or access. Here, a probationer's girlfriend, appellant, lives with him in an apartment. We conclude that his girlfriend's purse, which is on a chair in their bedroom, is subject to search because this is a repository over which the probationer has control or access. A probationer has no entitlement to Fourth Amendment protections because of ingenuity in selecting a hiding place for drugs.

Facts

On the evening of August 1, 2011, Oxnard Police Officer Paul Knapp knocked on Ronald Williams' apartment door to conduct a probation search. Williams was on probation with "search terms." Appellant, William's girlfriend, answered the door and summoned Williams. He emerged from the bedroom and greeted Officer Knapp. Appellant said that she, Williams, and their son shared the bedroom.

Officer Knapp entered the cluttered bedroom and saw a lot of bags, boxes, and things strewn about. A tan purse was on a chair in the middle of the room. Officer Knapp picked it up. Appellant said it was her purse and that she needed medication out of the purse. Officer Knapp said that he would retrieve the medication and did not want appellant reaching into bags while he was conducting the search.

Inside the purse was a small makeup bag. Officer Knapp, in his 16 year law enforcement career, had seen males and females carry drugs in similar makeup bags. Appellant claimed that the makeup bag was not hers, that she didn't know how it got in the purse, and that a friend had borrowed the purse. Appellant was extremely nervous, had dilated pupils, and appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance.

Officer Knapp looked in the makeup bag and found a glass vial of methamphetamine, a lighter, and a glass smoking pipe. Elsewhere in the bedroom, Officer Knapp found a camera bag with small, skull-patterned Ziploc bags, a digital scale and a long metal spoon, and another glass smoking pipe. The scale and spoon had white residue consistent with methamphetamine, and a vial of methamphetamine was in the laundry basket by the bedroom door. These items were seized and appellant was placed under arrest.

Trial Court Ruling

Citing People v. Smith (2002) 95 Cal.App.4th 912 (Smith),the trial court denied the motion to suppress because Williams and appellant had joint control and "possession of the bedroom and all of the items in it . . . . Certainly there was access to a purse out in the middle of the bedroom."

Joint Control or Access

An officer conducting a probation search, may search those portions of a residence over which the officer reasonably believes the probationer has joint control or access. (People v. Woods (1999) 21 Cal.4th 668, 682; Smith, supra, 95 Cal.App.4th at p. 919 [probation search may include common areas shared by nonprobationer).)

Appellant argues that Officer Knapp had no reason to believe the purse belonged to Williams. Relying upon People v. Veronica (1980) 107 Cal.App.3d 906, appellant asserts that a purse is a distinctly female depository and no officer would believe it belonged to a male probationer. But in Veronica the Court of Appeal stated: "We do not, of course, suggest that simply because a garment or container is clearly designed for a person other than the parolee, that it may never be searched under the parolee's prerelease consent. The particular circumstances may ...


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