Judge Tosses Peace Officer Evidence – Didn’t Have Reasonable Suspicion to Arrest Defendant

By Bianca Estrada

FRESNO – A Fresno County Superior Court judge threw out the testimony of a Fresno police officer here Thursday, ruling he did not have reasonable suspicion to detain a man for DUI hit and run.

Officer Derrick Johnson took the stand in a motion to suppress hearing before pre-trial with Judge Samuel Dalesandro in the case of Bradley Sutton, who is facing a misdemeanor charge after allegedly fleeing the scene of a vehicle collision off Highway 99 near Ashlan and Blythe Avenues.

Deputy District Attorney Cameron Simoes asked the officer what happened at around midnight on June 23 when he received an alert that a white, adult male wearing a dark shirt, and jeans had left a vehicle collision. Officer Johnson was in the area so he asked the dispatcher to put him on the call.

As the officer was driving eastbound on Ashlan Ave. from Blythe Ave., he said he observed a male matching the nationality and clothing description. The man was walking with a limp, and held a cell phone up to his ear.

According to Johnson, he then made a U turn to take a closer look, and confirmed that the man matched the description.

Sutton’s attorney, Eric Shwetizer, objected to his responses, citing the detention of Sutton went beyond the Harvey-Madden motion, meaning there was not enough reason for stopping him with reasonable cause.

Johnson said there was raised suspicion because of the collision, which would have explained the limp, or would have at least been consistent with a vehicle collision. He was also walking Westbound on Ashlan Ave, away from the scene.

The officer stopped the suspect and questioned him about where he was coming from, and if he had been involved in an accident. The suspect said no, but provided identification after Johnson requested it. The suspect was identified as Bradley Sutton. Dispatch advised that the name matched the registered owner in the car collision.

Under cross-examination by Sutton’s attorney, Johnson admitted that he did not review any of the dispatch logs before appearing in court, and was not familiar with the logs, nor had not listened to any of the dispatch tapes.

Schweitzer pointed out that the incident happened more than a year ago, and that it must be difficult to remember the events correctly. He asked Johnson if he knew what “HMA” was. Johnson said he did not. Schweitzer said it was an acronym for “Hispanic Adult Male,” which is what dispatch had put out as the description.

To prove a point, Schweitzer asked Sutton, who was sitting in court, to pull down his mask. Johnson, Judge Dalesandro, and DA Simoes all looked up at the defendant. Schweitzer asked the officer if he matched the description of a Hispanic male. Johnson said no, and then admitted to not observing the car involved in the collision when asked.

Schweitzer argued that Johnson detained Sutton simply on articulated suspicion, but there was no objective evidence for such “4th Amendment intrusion.”

The court found that the officer did not have enough reasonable suspicion to detain Sutton, and ruled to dismiss the evidence and the testimony of officer Johnson. Pre-trial is set to begin at a later date without Johnson’s testimony.

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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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