By Simran Chahal
SACRAMENTO, CA – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie denied a motion to suppress evidence Wednesday for a trial after an alleged illegal search and seizure—largely because a suspect admitted during detainment to having unlawful drugs.
In May of last year, David Boult was a passenger in a car that had been reported as stolen, causing an officer to conduct a traffic stop on the vehicle. Due to the nature of the act, both the driver and passenger were detained. This led to Boult being charged with the possession of controlled substances with intent to sell.
On Wednesday, Deputy Silver Paley and Deputy Ross Nishio were brought in to testify for questioning to recollect on the events on that day.
Paley said he “followed the vehicle nonchalantly until it pulled into a business complex,” but as it pulled out “from the way that they were driving…I suspected that they were trying to avoid law enforcement contact.” At that point, he followed the vehicle and conducted a record check by running the license plate.
“That’s when I learned that was a DOJ (Dept. of Justice) stop request on that vehicle…and a DOJ stop is usually a stolen vehicle or felony vehicle,” he stated. When he learned this information, the vehicle came to a stop at a nearby gas station where a traffic stop was conducted.
“With the totality of the circumstances at that point, I demanded the subjects stay inside the vehicle,” Paley said, and observed the defendant Boult in the passenger seat of the vehicle and noticed a secondary set of license plates.
After some investigation, Paley revealed he was able to find out that the occupants were in a stolen vehicle. “With the vehicle returning as a stolen vehicle, we initially detained both of the subjects in handcuffs for officer safety reasons,” said Paley.
Paley also noted that, prior to the traffic stop, he did not have specific information that Boult was involved in the theft of the vehicle or was in possession of a deadly weapon.
After questioning Deputy Paley, Deputy Nishio was brought for witness questioning since he was involved with detaining the subject.
When Nishio arrived on the scene to assist Deputy Paley with the traffic stop, Boult was still in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Nishio stated that any occupants in the vehicle were detained “for safety reasons” since the vehicle was reported as stolen—specifically, he detained the defendant at that point.
During the time of detainment, the defendant was wearing baggy clothing and Nishio expressed that was a point of concern for him because “people can conceal drugs or weapons in baggy clothing that you cannot initially see with the naked eye.”
At this point, Nishio decided he was going to conduct a pat-down search “due to him being in a stolen vehicle and wearing baggy clothing.” When Nishio informed Boult of the pat-down search, “[suspect Boult] said that he had drugs on his clothing and he gave [Nishio] permission to remove those drugs.”
After the pat-down search, Nishio stated, “I located positive presumptive heroin and cocaine in his front, right pants pocket” and there were about a total of “38 baggies.” The bags were later tested and came back positive for heroin and cocaine.
Nishio said, “[the defendant] admitted that the items were his and he occasionally sold those drugs for cash and other goods.”
Nishio stated that he had no prior knowledge of whether the defendant participated in the theft of the vehicle or was in possession of a deadly weapon at the time of contact.
Defense Attorney Justin Mixon stated that, from the witness testimony, the deputies had no specific information Boult was involved in the theft of the vehicle or was armed, but “he was just a passenger in the vehicle.”
“Mere presence is not enough to make somebody an aid…in a crime,” argued Mixon, adding, “The reasonable assumption the officers could have made from the facts that they had was that [the driver in the vehicle] was the responsible party…there was some alleged consent, but I think the consent that was given was at a point where (Boult) was not free to leave.”
Deputy District Attorney Saron Tesfai argued that “Supreme Court law does state that when an officer pulls a vehicle over…they do have the right to detain the driver as well as the occupants of the vehicle while they are investigating the crime.”
So, Tesfai claimed Boult was justifiably detained. As for the search, Tesfai stated the defendant admitted to possessing drugs before the search. “At that point, even if [the defendant] did not consent to a search, Deputy Nishio would have had probable cause to search him.”
After listening to both of the arguments, Judge Eurie stated that the motion to suppress was denied.
The case is to resume Feb. 9 for a trial readiness conference and the trial is set for Feb. 14.