COURT WATCH: Defense Objects that Police Allow Hotel Worker to Search Accused’s Vehicle without Consent to Identify Stolen Tools

By Bryan Miller 

WOODLAND, CA – During the preliminary hearing here in Yolo County Superior Court this week involving second degree robbery and grand theft, it was discovered police allowed an everyday civilian to search the accused’s car without his consent.

Deputy Public Defender Monica Brushia argued this was a clear violation of the rights of the accused, noting there was an overall lack of personal knowledge from the prosecution’s witnesses. This primarily came in the area of the accused’s identity on surveillance footage.

While being questioned by Deputy District Attorney Alex Kian, Sgt. Janelle Bestpitch testified that during the investigation of a burglary from a hotel’s engineering room she, along with other officers, allowed a worker of the hotel to search the vehicle of the accused to look for tools that may have been stolen.

Bestpitch said that the worker was brought to the truck because he worked with the tools “every day” so he would be able to identify them. DPD Brushia noted through questioning that no list of what was stolen was brought along at the time.

According to Sgt. Bestpitch, the man identified the tools he believed belonged to the hotel from a large assortment of tools within the truck. Dixon police were also there investigating another tool theft.

The man would pick out the ones he believed to be the hotel’s and leave what he did not believe belonged to the hotel. However, as noted by Bestpitch, there were no identifying marks on any of the tools to signify them belonging to the hotel. The hotel worker simply chose what he believed to be stolen, based on personal recognition of the tools.

Through cross-examination of another individual who works with the Davis Police Department, DPD Brushia brought up the issue of damages to the engineer room door, where the items were stolen.

While questioning the witness it was found there were no specific damages to the door reported—only a receipt for repairs was provided. However, this receipt included several “guest room” doors that were also repaired. There are no charges against the accused for vandalism.

While questioning this witness DPD Brushia also noted the issue of identifying the witness, stating because the witness was not creating the product, an enlarged image from surveillance footage being used in order to identify the accused should not be used.

Judge Daniel Wolk ruled the accused will be held to answer charges, setting arraignment for March 25.

About The Author

Bryan Miller is a fourth year political science - public service major at UC Davis. He has a desire to pursue law in the future and has a large interest in the justice system and constitutional law. In his free time Bryan likes to spend time outdoors fishing and hiking.

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