Example Case of Illegal Detention in California

In People v. Jones (1991) 228 Cal.App.3d 519, an officer spotted the defendant standing on the sidewalk with two other men. The officer "suddenly" pulled his patrol car "to the wrong side of the road," parked it "diagonally against the traffic," got out, and told the defendant, who was walking away, to stop. (Jones, supra, 228 Cal.App.3d at pp. 522-523.) When the defendant reached towards a pocket, the officer "'grabbed his left forearm.'" (Id. at p. 522.) As the officer withdrew the defendant's hand from the pocket, he saw a clear plastic bag containing what he suspected was cocaine. (Ibid.) The trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress and the Court of Appeal affirmed because "a reasonable man does not believe he is free to leave when directed to stop by a police officer who has arrived suddenly and parked his car in such a way as to obstruct traffic." (Id. at p. 523.) The court explained that the detention was illegal because the officer admitted "he had no 'probable cause' interest" in the defendant and because "the mere fact" that a defendant receives "money from another person on the street in an area known for drug activity is insufficient justification for a detention." (Id. at p. 524.) In that case, the police officer saw three men standing in a group near a street corner in an area known for drug activity. (Id. at p. 521.) The officer saw a man hand the defendant what appeared to be money. The officer detained the defendant, searched him, and found cocaine. (Id. at pp. 522-524.) The trial court granted the motion to suppress and the appellate court affirmed. (Id. at pp. 522, 524.)