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The California Supreme Court will decide whether police officers without a search warrant had a right to conduct a protective sweep of a detained suspect’s house that netted 41 kilograms of cocaine. Five justices voted Wednesday to review People v. Celis, S107885. The case involves police surveillance of suspected drug dealer Renato Salvador Celis. In April 2000, officers staked out Celis’ San Diego residence in connection with a novel drug smuggling technique that involved stashing drugs and money inside large tires for transport between the Mexican border and central and Northern California. After observing Celis rolling a pressurized tire near his house that appeared to be too large for his car, an officer detained him and another man. The officers then carried out a so-called protective sweep of the suspect’s house to ensure that there were no armed accomplices hiding inside. During this sweep, police discovered several bricks of cocaine inside a large box. While the officers did not have a search warrant, they peered inside the partially covered box because they said it was big enough for a small person to hide inside. Celis then signed a consent form allowing the officers to search his house, and was subsequently arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison. An appeals court affirmed the detention, the protective sweep and the arrest. But Celis’ attorney, San Diego solo Nicholas DePento, has questioned whether the officers were justified in carrying out the sweep. “If a person is detained by law enforcement officers, in close proximity to his residence, does that detention support a simultaneous warrantless ‘protective sweep’ of the residence?” asked DePento in his petition for Supreme Court review. All but Justices Marvin Baxter and Kathryn Mickle Werdegar voted to review the case. The high court also granted review Wednesday to People v. Garcia, S108472, in which a vocational nurse who consumed the drugs he stole from his workplace argued he should be entitled to treatment instead of jail time. Eric Garcia was found unconscious and blue in a restroom by co-workers after overdosing on the purloined narcotics. While he was convicted of petty theft and felony possession, Garcia maintained that he was entitled to the sentencing benefits of Proposition 36. The Third District Court of Appeal agreed with him in June and vacated the sentence, sending the case back to the trial court. All of the justices except Joyce Kennard voted to review the case.

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