By Linh Nguyen and Maxwell C. Myrhum
WOODLAND – A man was detained after a deputy discovered methamphetamine and possible drug paraphernalia in his vehicle during early morning hours at Cache Creek Casino.
The defendant, Victor Renaud, is accused of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance and possession of narcotic paraphernalia after a Yolo County Sheriff’s Deputy searched his car parked at Cache Creek Casino. After returning to his car and leaving the area, Renaud was pulled over by the deputy to be detained and arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamines in his vehicle.
The prosecution called Sheriff’s Deputy Tonya Oropeza as the first witness.
Deputy Oropeza testified to her patrol on Aug. 6, 2019, around 5:30 a.m. around the Cache Creek Casino. While patrolling the area, Deputy Oropeza noticed a car that had extensive damage. This, to the deputy, indicated that the vehicle could possibly be stolen, prompting her to inspect further.
Upon doing a plain view search from the outside of the damaged vehicle, Deputy Oropeza saw a small plastic bag with a white crystalline substance in it. The deputy, using her flashlight, as she testified the sun had not come up yet, then discovered a long plastic tube. She explained to the court that the tube and small plastic bag indicated to her that the items were suspected to possibly be used for drug consumption, more specifically methamphetamine.
The deputy then returned to her patrol car and waited for someone to return to the vehicle.
After some time, Renaud returned to the vehicle and drove until Deputy Oropeza pulled him over on the suspicion of drug possession. Inside Renaud’s vehicle, the deputy found the small bag, the tube, a scale, and a pill bottle.
Before and after the detention of Renaud, Deputy Oropeza took photographs of the contents of the vehicle in order to document her findings.
There is, however, a lack of clarity on the part of Deputy Oropeza as to when and from where the photographs were taken, as the defense argued. The photos shown to the court appeared to be taken at an angle that was inaccessible to the deputy before she detained Renaud, suggesting they were taken from inside the vehicle. However, the deputy insisted that any photo, unless specified otherwise, was taken from outside the vehicle. This inaccessibility was due to all windows of the vehicle being closed and the doors locked.
The prosecution elaborated, saying that the windows are transparent, and that in some photographs taken that morning, it appears they were taken from inside the vehicle; but, there is no such reflection or transparency in the windows that was explicit in the pieces of evidence displayed to the court.
The defense then called the defendant, Victor Renaud, to testify. His brief testimony was to confirm that the tube found in his car at the time of his arrest was the same tube that was present in the picture that Deputy Oropeza took that same morning. The deputy did not seize the tube for evidence; the defense presented the tube to the court for evidence.
The last witness called by the defense was Annette Iglecias-Hughes, an addiction consultant and expert witness. Iglecias-Hughes testified to her professional experience working with drug users and her personal experience as a recovered methamphetamine user.
Based on her knowledge, Iglecias-Hughes testified that the tube found in Renaud’s vehicle cannot physically be used to smoke methamphetamine. When the defense asked her how someone might use that tube to smoke the drug, the witness struggled to demonstrate how it would be possible to use a tube of that length and diameter.
Contrary to the 40-inch long, one-inch diameter tube presented before the court, Iglecias-Hughes testified that the tubes commonly used for smoking methamphetamine are straw-like, about two and a half to three inches long and about a quarter-inch in diameter.
In closing, the prosecution argued that Deputy Oropeza should be trusted in her discretion and critical thinking abilities to discern between credible and non-credible pieces of evidence, with this case being one of credible evidence.
To counter this, the defense argued that having a small bag in possession is not sufficient evidence for a peace officer to detain individuals, as it is just a common item that also happens to be associated with controlled substances. The defense further argued to the absurdity of the search, saying that it would not be reasonable to search a vehicle with, for example, a spoon inside. Also, the expert witness’s testimony established that the tube found was in no way usable for this drug use.
Judge David Reed ruled that the deputy did have credible suspicion and probable cause in this case because there is some residue in the bag and the pipe was thought by the deputy, based on both field and classroom instruction, to be utilized in the consumption of methamphetamine.
The motion to suppress was denied and a pre-trial meeting will be held on Apr. 3, 2020, at 10:00 a.m.
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