By David M. Greenwald
Woodland, CA – Yolo County Judge Sonia Cortés asked for additional briefing in a motion to suppress case. Woodland Police Officers came across a young woman sleeping in her vehicle while stopped at an intersection in the early morning hours of October 30, 2022.
The woman was reluctant to exit her vehicle due to her attire. Two female officers ultimately had her put on a hazmat suit. Over the course of a more than 40-minute encounter, the police attempted to convince the woman to take a PAS (preliminary alcohol screening) test—but the incident, caught on body camera video that was shown in open court on Wednesday, shows the woman repeatedly declining the PAS, which under state law is her right.
Public Defender Cheyanne Martin, representing the woman, filed a motion to suppress on her behalf, arguing that the prolonged detention became coercive when the officers ignored repeated declarations by the woman to decline the PAS test.
Following testimony from the officer alongside the video, Deputy DA Casper Gorner argued, “Your Honor, it’s important that we take a look at the legal standard on this repeated, repeated questioning, even over a period of 46 minutes … is not a basis on which to determine court on itself.”
Gorner noted that “in the middle of being questioned, she did decide to put on the suit, she was not forced to.”
He argued, “At that point, the elongation is purely because they’re trying to do the investigation and she’s stopping them at every turn.”
He noted, “They’re trying to assuage her concerns. They’re giving her a chance to think on it.” He explained, “So the length of this in context of the investigation, it’s contributed in no small part by the fact that the defendant is taking time processing and the officers are allowing her time to do that because they believe she’s having anxiety issues. So, your Honor, this cannot be viewed as coercive.”
However, Martin saw it differently.
She noted, “My client was very much against the tests and then eventually became ambivalent toward the tests.”
Martin continued, “While I would concede that there was probable cause to interact with my client that night, based on her falling asleep at the light, after my client clearly stated no, that she did not want to submit to the PAS test and no, that she did not want to do the FSTs [field sobriety tests], is the point where this detention became prolonged unlawful and in violation of her constitutional right.”
At several points the woman told the officer to either write her a ticket or take her in.
“That’s what she wanted to do,” Martin said. “Officer Brewer chose not to do that. Instead she kept my client on the scene of the Chevron Gas Station at 3:30 in the morning, wearing a hazmat suit, and proceeded to ask her over and over and over until someone who was against the tests, very much against the test, eventually became what Mr. Gorner describes as ambivalent toward the test.”
Martin argued, “They broke my client down after she clearly exercised her right to refuse to do the field sobriety test by saying no.”
Martin added, “The Fourth Amendment exists for a reason. My client exercised her rights. She decided she did not want to do the tests, and she did not do anything to prevent the officer’s investigation.”
In fact, Martin reiterated, “she offered that the officers either write her a ticket or take her in if they were placing her under arrest. At that point, she offered to get herself an Uber home because the officers kept mentioning that her safety was their biggest concern.”
Martin continued, “At multiple times, this investigation should have stopped, and, in fact, the investigation became prolonged at minute 3:23 AM As Officer Brewer pointed out, was the very first time my client said no, that she did not want to take these tests. This is the definition of a prolonged detention.”
Martin added, “I think that the more accurate interpretation is that they were using my client’s anxiety against her to break her down. At the very end of their interaction with her, she’s crying, she’s sobbing her, her face is in her hands. When in the beginning of her interaction with these officers, she clearly said, no, I don’t, or she shook her head and clearly repeated back to the officer, no, I don’t want to do your tests. So that even further proves that these officers coerced my client into eventually taking the PAS test by breaking her down to the point where she was in tears.”
Judge Cortes asked, “So your position is, it’s, it’s coercive if after a set period of time?”
Martin responded, “My main argument is that this is a prolonged detention. So again, my position is that anything after 3:23 AM should be suppressed because at that point my client clearly and unequivocally said or shook her head and confirmed no, she did not want to complete any of the tests.”
The judge then asked, “So then it’s a prolonged detention argument, not a lack (of consent) or a coercion?”
Martin responded that first it’s a prolonged detention and then at the point at which her client finally blew into the PAS machine, “it was coerced” because it was “not consent on her part.”
The judge asked for supplemental briefing and the matter will come back on July 28 for a ruling.