Public Defender Notes Race, Questions Why Man Stopped for Infraction Would be Searched – Judge Denies Motion to Suppress

By Gwynneth Redemann

MERCED, CA – Merced County Superior Court Judge Donald Shaver denied a motion to suppress evidence—a “baggie of meth”—that a deputy from the Merced County Sheriff’s Office found in the Shanon Miles’s pocket after he was pulled over for a simple license light infraction.

The deputy admitted Miles didn’t cause any problems and was completely cooperative—the public defender noted that the deputy was White and the accused Black.

According to the deputy who conducted the traffic stop, Miles was initially pulled over because a license plate light was out, but that Miles was unable to produce any form of identification when asked to produce it after the stop.

The deputy said Miles did however mention that he had a valid driver’s license but that he didn’t have it with him.

After the deputy verified the identification of Miles through an online database, he asked Miles if he could step out of the vehicle so that he could conduct a search of both him and the vehicle.

Deputy District Attorney Rodrigo Aguilar asked if Miles “consented to emptying his pockets and having his vehicle searched,” and the deputy said Miles agreed to both and when he emptied his pants pockets he pulled out a small “baggie with what looked to be methamphetamine.”

Assistant Public Defender Erica Galeon asked “whether the deputy was Caucasian” and noted that the accused is Black. The deputy verified he is Caucasian.

PD Galeon then asked about the nature of the stop and how the deputy saw the back license light out if he was driving in the opposite direction as Miles.

The deputy explained that he saw the missing light in his mirror and made a U-turn when he saw it.

Galeon asked if there were any other reasons why the deputy would search the car and if this was “normal procedure,” noting, “Your normal procedure for infraction would be to write someone up for the traffic ticket and let them on their way?”

The deputy responded, “Correct.”

Galeon continued, asking the deputy whether Miles was on parole or probation, if it looked like he had any weapons in his car, if he yelled at the deputy or anything else of that nature.

The deputy responded “no” to all of the questions.

Galeon concluded by asking the deputy “when you initially conducted the stop, did you believe that he was armed and dangerous,” and the deputy responded “no.”

DDA Aguilar redirected, emphasizing that the longer than usual traffic stop was because Miles could not produce any form of identification. He also reiterated that the defendant consented to the search of both himself and the vehicle.

PD Galeon stated, “There is no reason to prolong this detention [at the traffic stop] even if there is a violation. Normal procedure would be to write up a ticket and let them on their way.

“He [the deputy] testified today saying that he did not believe my client was armed and dangerous,” argued Galeon.

Judge Shaver denied the motion to suppress the evidence in the man’s pocket, noting the traffic stop was not unreasonably long and that the deputy had the right to conduct a pat down for the infractions of the light being out and the inability to produce a form of identification.

The case will proceed with a pre-trial hearing scheduled for April 4 at 9:30 a.m.

About The Author

Gwynneth is a senior at UC Davis, studying Political Science and Anthropology. She is from Ventura, California.

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