COURT WATCH: Defense Questions Police Interaction with Accused, but Judge Tosses Motion to Suppress 

By Julie McCaffrey

WOODLAND, CA — In a motion to suppress hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court last week, the defense questioned the actions of an officer during a police stop and arrest of the accused on the suspicion of driving under the influence after being pulled over for speeding—in the end, the judge disagreed with the defense.

Officer Shaun Kattenhorn said he saw the accused allegedly speeding, and pulled her over on the shoulder of a highway after following her for roughly 300 feet. Once he got to her car, he said he noticed slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol.

Kattenhorn added he conducted a routine field sobriety test, which included the walk-and-turn test, the one-leg stand test, and a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, all of which she failed. He said the accused’s blood alcohol content was allegedly three times over the legal limit, and she was arrested.

Deputy Public Defender Roberto Villa Olivas questioned Kattenhorn about his conversation with the accused and his actions he took prior to her arrest.

DPD Villa Olivas asked him whether he remembered the first thing he said to the accused, which was allegedly “why are you trying to run from me?” Officer Kattenhorn promptly responded, “I don’t recall.”

The PD asked Officer Kattenhorn whether he remembered saying other statements to the accused, such as “I’m so glad we got you off the road tonight,” “I’m really glad you didn’t hit anyone,” and “You don’t care.”

Officer Kattenhorn responded by saying he “doesn’t recall the conversation with (the accused).”

During the traffic stop, Officer Kattenhorn said he asked the accused if she had anything to drink that night, to which she responded in the affirmative. DPD Villa Olivas then asked, “Was that before or after you read her Miranda Rights?” Officer Kattenhorn responded, “Before.”

DPD Villa Olivas charged, “You never read [the accused] her Miranda Rights that night, did you?” Officer Kattenhorn responded, “No.”

Officer Kattenhorn then stated that he did a cursory search of her vehicle for a weapon and found none. The DPD noted this search was conducted without a warrant, and is in violation of the accused’s Fourth Amendment rights.

After the search, Kattenhorn said he then attempted to place the accused in the back of his patrol car before formally arresting her. He stated he did this to “conduct the DUI investigation in a safe place,” as he pulled her over on the right-hand side of a freeway. He said another officer was allegedly with him that night and told him to not place her in the back of the patrol car before arresting her.

Before three field sobriety tests were conducted on the accused, the officer said he removed the accused’s prescription glasses.

And, DPD Villa Olivas raised issue with this, as this may have affected her performance on the tests because her vision was impaired. Officer Kattenhorn responded that it was customary to remove any hats and sunglasses during these tests.

DPD Villa Olivas further questioned Officer Kattenhorn on the condition of the road during the field sobriety tests, specifically the walk-and-turn test, noting the National Highways Safety Administration calls for the walk-and-turn test to be conducted on a “dry, non-slippery, flat surface.”

This test was conducted on the shoulder of a highway, which DPD Villa Olivas claimed did not meet the criteria, because the DPD said the surface was not dry or level.

To conclude his questioning, Villa Olivas stated Officer Kattenhorn “did not have (the accused) complete a preliminary alcohol screening test,” which Kattenhorn confirmed.

The PD then asked, “And yet you placed her under arrest?” to which Officer Kattenhorn responded, “Yes.”

Judge Daniel Wolk said that while the search of the accused’s vehicle was done without a warrant, the burden lies with District Attorney Figueroa to prove that a valid exception applies in this case.

DPD Villa Olivas then moved to suppress the breath test results and Officer Kattenhorn’s observations because, he charged, the warrantless search and seizure violated the accused’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Villa Olivas argued that “there was not enough probable cause to arrest for DUI when Officer Kattenhorn placed her under arrest,” and that her performance on the field sobriety tests was affected by the rainy weather.

DDA Figueroa refuted the defense claims, and stated the weather had no effect on the accused’s speed, bloodshot eyes, slur and unsteady gait. He further argued the accused admitted to drinking and was almost three times over the legal limit, concluding there was “certainly probable cause to make an arrest, and the evidence should not be suppressed.”

DPD Villa Olivas then criticized Officer Kattenhorn’s credibility as a witness, noting the officer testified he “could not recall” almost 20 times during his time on the stand, adding he did not believe the officer to be experienced enough to make the arrest.

Judge Wolk then clarified that DPD Villa Olivas was saying that Officer Kattenhorn did not have enough experience to form that probable case basis, to which the DPD agreed.

DDA Figueroa stated that just because the officer did not remember specific phrasings does not indicate that he is incorrect or trying to be untruthful, and maintained there were no credibility issues with the officer.

Judge Wolk concluded a valid exception does apply in the case of the warrantless search and seizure, due to the accused’s alleged speeding, and Officer Kattenhorn did have basis to temporarily detain the accused.

The judge added that once the accused was detained, he believed the officer does have sufficient training and expertise to recognize objective signs of intoxication, and therefore had sufficient cause to extend the temporary detention for the investigation of the potential DUI. He had probable cause to arrest, which may be done without a warrant, according to several statutes.

Judge Wolk denied the motion to suppress, and set the trial setting conference for Nov. 17.

About The Author

Julie is a third year at UC Davis majoring in Communications and Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. She hopes to advocate for women's reproductive rights and make the justice system fairer for sexual assault survivors.

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