Judge Considers Ruling on Whether Search of Purse Reasonable

YoloCourt-23by Tiffany Yeh

Another aspect of the motion to suppress hearing of defendants Kristy Church and Kenneth Miller, primarily for Church, was discussed Thursday, February 11, by Judge Daniel Maguire and Deputy Public Defender Emily Fisher, representing Church. Co-defendant Miller was represented by J. Toney, and the prosecution was represented by Deputy District Attorney Frits van der Hoek.

The case was first heard in mid-January, where Judge Maguire partially denied the motion to suppress based on a lengthy stop of the defendant, who was located near her car. However, the issue of searching her purse was left to a later date. (See original article for more background).

The issue was about whether the search of Ms. Church’s purse was justified and, if so, what justifies the search of her purse. Judge Maguire stated that he will make his ruling within a week.

Both defense and prosecution were allowed to file supplemental material and citations to Judge Maguire by the end of the next Tuesday. A further pre-trial conference will occur on February 25 at 8:30am.

Ms. Fisher, on behalf of Ms. Church, chose not to file anything for the current hearing.

Judge Maguire cited People v. Strasburg (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 1052 [56 Cal.Rptr.3d 306]. He noted that the search “has to have scope.” Also, the case applies generally to marijuana.

The decision in People v. Strasburg stated, “The fact that defendant had a medical marijuana prescription, and could lawfully possess an amount of marijuana greater than that Deputy Mosely initially found, does not detract from the officer’s probable cause. As Mower observes, the Act provides a limited immunity-not a shield from reasonable investigation. An officer with probable cause to search is not prevented from doing so by someone presenting a medical marijuana card or a marijuana prescription. Given the probable cause here, the officer is entitled to continue to search and investigate…”

The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (California Health and Safety Code, section 11362.5) is referred to here, the California law that allows usage of medical cannabis.

The judge asked what the was deputy trying to look for.

Van der Hoek answered the judge by saying that Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Hallenbeck found marijuana, and then methamphetamine. The basis of the search includes marijuana. Because of this, the police officer can search any area of the vehicle.

He mentioned that it was an “unlimited scope search.” This search was based on the smell of marijuana and/or meth. After he found marijuana, that did not mean there was not more marijuana in Ms. Church’s purse.

Also, the meth was found in the area between the two front seats. Mr. van der Hoek stated that the deputy was just concerned with the search. Everyone within the car is subject to it and there “did not need to have individualized suspicions to have PC.” Both defendants were “within reaching distance” of the meth. The search is incidental to the arrest.

DDA van der Hoek argued that there was probable cause to arrest Ms. Church and the co-defendant. He cited a U.S. Supreme Court case about three people in a car, with cocaine in that vehicle, which concluded that everyone inside the car can be arrested.

DPD Fisher went over some of the facts in the case. Ms. Church was only put under arrest after 26 minutes.

Judge Maguire asked if the officer needed to have arrested Ms. Church before searching her purse. In other words, as long as there is probable cause, is that necessary?

Van der Hoek cited Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366 (2003) where five packages of cocaine and over $600 were found in the car. They had been stopped for speeding. It was held that all three were lawfully arrested, as all three denied ownership of the contraband, and the search can be before the arrest when probable cause for the search is there.

The judge cited Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98 (1980) about what evidence obtained unconstitutionally is allowed to be suppressed.

In the Rawlings case, the “petitioner had no ‘standing’ to contest the search of Cox’s purse because he had no legitimate or reasonable expectation of freedom from governmental intrusion into the purse, and that the search uncovering the money in petitioner’s pocket was justifiable as incident to a lawful arrest based on probable cause.”

Judge Daniel Maguire stated that he will make his ruling within a week.

As indicated above, both defense and prosecution can file supplemental material and citations to Judge Maguire by the end of the next Tuesday after this hearing was held. A further pre-trial conference will occur on February 25, 2016.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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1 Comment

  1. Napoleon Pig IV

    Yet another case of wasted public and private resources over long-failed and eternally stupid drug prohibition. It’s time to bury the dead horse and let it compost peacefully in the sanctity of the all-forgiving earth.

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