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Law School Case Brief

People v. James - 19 Cal. 3d 99, 137 Cal. Rptr. 447, 561 P.2d 1135 (1977)

Rule:

Advice as to Miranda rights is not a prerequisite to a voluntary consent to search. Such consent is neither testimonial, nor communicative in the Fifth Amendment sense. The fact that the search leads to incriminating evidence does not make the consent testimonial, any more than the victim's identification at the lineup gives such a quality to the words spoken by the suspect. The request for a consent to search is designed to elicit physical and not testimonial evidence.

Cal. Penal Code § 654 bars multiple punishment for an indivisible course of conduct which violates more than one statute, and divisibility depends in turn on the defendant's intent: if all his offenses were incident to one objective, the defendant may be punished only once.

Facts:

Defendant Samuel James was arrested in connection with the theft of a television from an office building. During the crime, James held a janitorial worker at knife-point. In a prosecution for burglary and armed robbery in California, defendant Samuel James made a motion to suppress evidence on the grounds that he had involuntarily consented to a police search of his premises without a warrant after being arrested and handcuffed. He claimed that the police coerced him in obtaining his consent and had failed to advise him of his rights to refuse consent, to remain silent, and to obtain counsel. The trial court denied the motion and ultimately entered judgment and entered a judgment convicting James on three counts of burglary and one count of armed robbery. James appealed.

Issue:

1. Was James illegally searched by the police, rendering the evidence obtained during the search inadmissible?

2. Did the trial court in error in punishing James separately for burglary and robbery of the same office?

Answer:

(1) No; (2) Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court modified the trial court's judgment and, as so modified, affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court ruled that: (1) the arrest, which was effected following identification James from police photographs by the eyewitness victim, was predicated on ample probable cause. Further, the arresting officer did not engage in conduct of so coercive in nature so as to require a finding as a matter of law that the search was conducted under an unlawful assertion of authority. The failure of the arresting officer to advise James of his constitutional rights did not, as a matter of law, render James' consent involuntary, since the search was designed to elicit physical evidence rather than testimonial evidence, and consequently the arresting officer had no duty to give such advice prior to obtaining James' consent. (2) James could not be punished separately for his burglary of a designated office and his robbery of the victim inside that office, since the record showed that James pursued the victim into the office for the purpose of terrorizing and robbing her. Consequently his entry into the office constituted a burglary which was merely an incident to and a means of perpetrating the intended robbery. The court modified the judgment to stay execution of the sentence on the burglary conviction pending service of the sentence on the robbery conviction.

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