COURT WATCH: Defense Claims Police Officer Obtained Evidence from Vehicle without Warrant or Permission

By Kaveh Nasseri

MODESTO, CA – This week in a Stanislaus County Superior Court hearing, private defense attorney Derek Casey asked the court to suppress evidence allegedly obtained by an illegal search and used against his client.

The hearing was continued before a final ruling by the judge.

But, earlier, a police witness from the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department said he had pulled over the accused, who initially allegedly resisted arrest, and searched his vehicle without a warrant or the permission of the driver, and found a revolver and several Ziploc bags of marijuana.

According to the officer, who was placed on the witness stand and questioned by Casey and the prosecutor, the car he pulled over was a black Monte Carlo driving eastbound on Jowett Drive.

The vehicle had no running lights in the rear, which the officer identified as a violation of the vehicle code, and initiated a traffic stop. But when the car continued driving he turned on his lights and followed. The car eventually stopped at Turlock Inn, at which point both the officer and the accused exited their cars.

The officer told the accused to get back into the Monte Carlo. When asked how the accused responded, the officer said he did not specifically remember, but that “it was something to the effect of no.”

The accused, according to the officer, walked away from the car and into an alcove at the inn, at which point the officer drew his firearm. According to the officer, several assisting officers then arrived, and the accused returned from the alcove with his hands in the air. The accused was then placed under arrest for walking away from a traffic stop.

The officer searched the surrounding area and found a Ziploc baggie with a crystalline substance inside, which he identified as methamphetamine. After locating the bag he spoke with a woman who had come out of the motel as the accused was being arrested and identified herself as the owner of the black Monte Carlo. The officer asked if he could search her car, to which she said no.

During the hearing, defense counsel Casey asked the officer if the vehicle owner had confirmed whether he would find drugs or guns inside the car. “She hemmed and hawed a bit,” said the officer in response. “She essentially indicated we would find them there,” he added.

Casey asked if the woman had indicated whether the accused was aware that there were drugs or guns inside, and the officer said that she had.

Despite the absence of a warrant and the lack of permission from the owner, the officer searched the vehicle.

“I searched the car under probable cause looking for additional meth,” said the officer during the hearing. During the search he found a revolver inside of a five gallon bucket, as well as packages of “zip top baggies and marijuana.” The bucket containing the revolver, the officer said, was two feet from the driver’s seat and within arm’s reach.

During his cross-examination, defense attorney Casey asked the officer if he could observe the accused with clarity and if he had observed anything in his hands before the arrest.

The officer said he could see the accused and that he had not observed anything. The officer also testified that he could not see the accused engage in any activity while inside the alcove.

The defense asked if, at the time he pulled over the accused, the officer had any reason to believe he had drugs. The officer replied that at that time he did not.

After the officer said the owner of the vehicle had indicated that the accused knew there were drugs or guns inside the car, Casey asked for a recess to review the interview, saying “I don’t remember seeing that.”

Judge Robert Westbrook granted the recess and said the hearing would reconvene later.

About The Author

Kaveh Nasseri Mashhadi is a recent graduate of UCLA with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. He is passionate about journalism, immigration law, and international politics. He hopes to attend law school and pursue a legal career.

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