Vanguard Covers Multiple Motions to Suppress

YoloCourt-10Motion to Suppress Evidence in Case of Drug Paraphernalia Possession

By Mariel Barbadillo

Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtyan filed a motion under Penal Code section 1538.5 to suppress evidence obtained by the Woodland Police Department in the case of Jerrett Allen Luedy. Mr. Luedy is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, specifically two hypodermic syringes uncovered by Officer  Ryan Eads during a search that is now in question.

On November 23, 2015, at approximately 1:50 am, Officer Eads saw Mr. Luedy riding a bicycle in the McDonald’s parking lot at 55 West Court Street in Woodland. The officer contacted the defendant and searched the defendant’s person and possessions. This is when the officer found the syringes and questioned the defendant about them.

The defense states that Mr. Luedy’s detention and search were warrantless, which has been declared “presumptively illegal” in Katz v. United States (1967) and People v. Laiwa (1983).

If the prosecution is unable to provide justification for or an exception to the officer’s violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights regarding searches and seizures, the court is compelled to suppress any and all observations, statements made by the defendant, and tangible or intangible evidence (such as the suspected drug paraphernalia) obtained during the warrantless search and seizure.

In the People’s opposition to the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence, Deputy District Attorney Alvina Tzang argued that, while the search was warrantless, the defendant was not detained and he gave the officer his consent to be searched.

According to the prosecution’s statement of the facts, Officer Eads approached Mr. Luedy to “exchange casual conversation.”

The officer asked Mr. Luedy if he had anything illegal on him. When the defendant said no, the officer asked for consent to search him. The defendant allegedly consented to the search “verbally and by holding out his arms.” No contrabands were found during the pat down search or the search of the defendant’s backpack, which he also allegedly consented to.

It was not until after Officer Eads searched the defendant’s person and backpack that he noticed two hypodermic needles sticking out of the defendant’s bicycle seat. The officer proceeded to take the seat off to seize the syringes.

The fact statement indicates that the syringes did not contain drugs, but appeared to have blood on the tips of the needles. The defendant then allegedly disclosed that he had used the needles to inject methamphetamine earlier on the morning of November 22, 2015.

The defendant’s statement, in conjunction with the search and seizure, prompted Officer Eads to issue a notice for Mr. Luedy to appear for possession of drug paraphernalia.

In response to the defense’s argument that Mr. Luedy was detained without a warrant, the prosecution listed circumstances that might indicate detention as defined in United States v. Mendenhall (1991). Such circumstances include “threatening presence of several officers, an officer’s display of a weapon, some physical touching of the citizen’s person, or the use of language or tone of voice indicating that compliance with the officer’s request might be compelled.”

The prosecution said Officer Eads did not activate his siren, block the defendant’s path, or make a verbal command for the defendant to stop. Since none of the circumstances of detention can be used to describe the officer’s encounter with Mr. Luedy, the prosecution argued the officer did not detain the defendant.

The prosecution also cited Florida v. Bostick in saying a police officer can approach anyone in a public space for any reason. They maintain that Officer Eads’ conversation with the defendant was casual; the officer himself described their conversation as “small talk.”

The defense said that detention is when “a reasonable person in his or her position would believe that he or she is not free to leave,” but the prosecution argued it would have been reasonable for an innocent person in such a circumstance to feel free to leave.

Moreover, the officer said he was able to see the syringes without removing the bicycle seat. According to Harris v. United States (1968), “objects falling in the plain view of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to [search and] seizure and may be introduced in evidence.” Since the syringes were allegedly openly visible, only probable cause was needed to seize them.

The prosecution argued that Officer Eads had probable cause to believe the syringes the defendant had in his possession were drug paraphernalia, based on the appearance of blood on the needle as well as Mr. Luedy’s statements that he had used methamphetamine earlier in the day.

Given these observations and statements, the officer had “honest and strong suspicion” to believe that the defendant committed the crime of possession of drug paraphernalia.

The issue at hand, however, is not whether or not the defendant committed a crime, but whether or not the evidence was lawfully obtained.

In cases where defendants file a motion to suppress, the court may deny the motion “when it believes that factual testimony on behalf of the People is more probably true than false.”


Defense Files Motion to Suppress Evidence in DUI Case

By Mariel Barbadillo

A motion to suppress evidence was filed by the defense in the case of Juan Manuel Reyes, who is charged with driving under the influence.

On January 25, 2016, West Sacramento Police Officer Keegan Hironaka conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Mr. Reyes. The officer detained and arrested Mr. Reyes.

During the defendant’s detention, the officer obtained pre- and post-breath samples, conducted field sobriety tests, and questioned him.

Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtyan argued that Mr. Reyes’s detention was not supported by a warrant. Warrantless searches and seizures are “presumptively illegal,” as declared in Katz v. United States (1967).

The burden is on the prosecution to provide proper justification for the seizure and an exception to the warrant requirement. The defense contends that the evidence of the case shows there is no justification for the defendant’s detention.

In cases where there is no justification for a warrantless search and seizure, the court must suppress all tangible and intangible evidence obtained during the detention, including officer observations, statements made by the defendant, and breath samples.

Deputy District Attorney Jared Favero argued that Officer Hironaka had reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop, detain, and ultimately arrest Mr. Reyes.

The statement of facts provided by the prosecution states that at around 2:19 am on January 25, 2016, Officer Hironaka saw a vehicle traveling approximately 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. The officer also claimed the vehicle was swerving within its lane, at one point straddling the line between its lane and the adjacent lane.

The officer stopped and contacted the driver, who was later identified as Mr. Reyes. Upon approaching Mr. Reyes, the officer says he smelled a “strong odor of alcoholic beverage” and observed that the defendant had watery eyes. When questioned, the defendant told the officer he had consumed eight beers earlier in the night.

Officer Hironaka did a record check of the defendant, which showed he did not have a valid driver’s license and that he was on formal searchable probation. The officer also conducted a pat down search, but did not find any contrabands on the defendant’s person.

The officer then conducted Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs), which Mr. Reyes is said to have had trouble participating in. The defendant demonstrated a lack of smooth pursuit during the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, had difficulty following instructions for the Walk and Turn test, and displayed poor balance during the One-Leg Stand test.

In addition to these field sobriety tests, the officer conducted a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test. Mr. Reyes tested at a 0.158% and 0.151% Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).

After seeing these results, Officer Hironaka arrested Mr. Reyes for the crime of driving under the influence.

Countering the defense’s argument that the officer’s detention of the defendant was warrantless, the prosecution stated that an officer may stop a vehicle if there is reasonable suspicion that a driver violated the California Vehicle Code. Citing Atwater v. City of Lago Vista (2001) and People v. McKay (2002), the prosecution said that once an officer has probable cause that a suspect committed a traffic violation, “such a violation does constitute a ‘public offense’ for which a warrantless arrest may be made without violating the Fourth Amendment.”

Since Officer Hironaka said he observed the defendant’s car swerving in its lane and veering into the adjacent lane at one point, a violation of Vehicle Code section 21658(a), the prosecution maintains that the officer’s traffic stop of Mr. Reyes was reasonable.

The prosecution acknowledged that simply swerving or straddling the adjacent lane is not enough to justify detention and investigation. However, they argue that considering those facts together, in conjunction with the fact that the defendant was driving 10 miles per hour under the posted speed limit, constitutes reasonable cause to stop the defendant.

The prosecution also argued that the length of time during which the defendant was detained was reasonable. Detention is intended to be speedy and focused on confirming or dispelling the suspicion of criminal activity justifying the detention, as defined in People v. Soun (1995). Detention is no longer constitutional when it extends beyond a time period reasonable to investigate the issue at hand.

Additional time is allowed, however, when there is additional reason to detain a suspect after the initial stop. In the instant case, the detention was prolonged because Officer Hironaka observed “more facts to raise his level of suspicion,” referring to the odor of alcohol, the defendant’s watery eyes, the defendant’s statement that he had drank 8 beers, and his poor results in the field sobriety tests.

The prosecution also cited these facts as the basis of Officer Hironaka’s probable cause to arrest Mr. Reyes for driving under the influence, in addition to the defendant’s PAS test results. For these reasons, the People are requesting that the Court deny the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence.


Preliminary Hearing in DUI Case

by Misha Berman

In the case of Juan Reyes, charged with driving under the influence, West Sacramento Police Officer Keegan Hironaka resumed his testimony this afternoon in Department 14.

Officer Hironaka pointed out that, when he was working on January 25, 2016, he did pull over a black truck at 2:19 am.. After his description of the events, the video that filmed what happened was played.

“This black pickup truck caught my attention in the video because it was driving really slow and it was swerving and straddling the other lane,” stated Hironaka.

Officer Hironaka then testified that he pulled the black truck over and that was the first time he communicated with Mr. Reyes. According to Hironaka, he stopped the car because he believed that the driver, Mr. Reyes, was under the influence.

“He was driving 25 mph when the speed limit was 35 mph,” explained Hironaka.

Yolo County Public Defender Aram Davtyan stated that, based on the video, the truck was not driving outside the lane or “weaving.” He then said that Officer Hironaka was not recognizing the fact that, for the most part, Mr. Reyes was driving normally and that he (Officer Hironaka) was penalizing Mr. Reyes for a brief second in the video where he did shift lanes.

“The People dispute the defense’s interpretation of the video, it’s more than a second,” claimed the prosecution.

The prosecution then added that Mr. Reyes was driving back and forth in different lanes, and driving outside of his lane. The prosecution then pointed out that after Officer Hironaka pulled into the lane behind him was when his driving became better, as the prosecution believes that Mr. Reyes knew he was being followed by a police officer and he didn’t want to get in trouble.

Judge Rosenberg then stated that he believed, from what he saw on the video, that Officer Hironaka had enough evidence from how Mr. Reyes appeared to be driving in the video to pull him over. Judge Rosenberg then denied the motion to suppress the evidence.

Mr. Reyes made a plea of no contest to Count 2 and the other counts, for the supposed vehicle violation of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 and above.

“The court orders four days in county jail starting on September 1, 2016. Total fines are $3,229. A three-month DUI course must be completed by 7/27/2017,” ordered Judge Rosenberg.

Judge Rosenberg lastly concluded that Mr. Reyes can’t drink until January 27, 2017, and after that date he can only drink moderately.

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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