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Cop Shining Flashlight Equals Detention

People v. Tacardon Court: Supreme Court of California, Docket: S264219, Opinion Date: December 29, 2022. The Supreme Court held that a law enforcement officer's act of shining a spotlight for illumination does not ipso facto constitute a detention under the Fourth Amendment, but rather, the proper inquiry requires consideration of the totality of the circumstances, including the use of the spotlight. Defendant was charged with drug offenses after a law enforcement officer conducted a search of the car he was driving. At issue was whether the officer engaged in a consensual encounter when he pulled behind Defendant's car and turned on his spotlight. The court of appeal concluded that spotlight illumination and approach on foot did not "manifest a sufficient show of police authority to constitute a detention." The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant was not detained by the officer's use of a spotlight; and (2) remand was appropriate for a new factual finding as to whether the officer's detention of the vehicle's female passenger effectuated a detention of Defendant.


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