Ct.App. 4/3 G035822 Orange County Super. Ct. No. DL020274, Caryl Lee.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Corrigan, J.
(This opn. should follow companion case, S150038, also filed 12/11/08)
In this companion case to People v. Hernandez (Dec. 11, 2008, S150038) __ Cal.4th __ (Hernandez), we conclude that the officer acted with sufficient particularized suspicion to justify the traffic stop at issue here.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
At 1:00 a.m. on October 24, 2004, Officer Timothy Kandler saw Raymond C. driving an Acura without license plates or a temporary operating permit in the rear window. The car was otherwise being driven lawfully. Kandler could not see whether there was a temporary permit in the front window. He stopped the Acura for the apparent license plate violation.
Kandler asked Raymond for his driver's license, registration,*fn1 and proof of insurance. Raymond provided his driver's license and proof of insurance and said the temporary permit was displayed in the front window.*fn2 In the course of the conversation Kandler noticed the odor of alcohol emanating from Raymond's breath and person. Kandler then administered a field sobriety test, which Raymond failed.
At a motion to suppress evidence*fn3 Raymond's father testified that he purchased the 2005 Acura on October 2, 2004, and did not receive license plates until early December. The two-week-old car was "shiny and new" when his son was arrested. There was a temporary permit in the front window.
Raymond's motion to suppress was denied. The court found that he had driven a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more.*fn4 Raymond was declared a ward of the court and placed on probation with conditions including a 10-day work program.
The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the officer had reasonable grounds for the stop. He saw that Raymond's car did not have license plates or a temporary permit in the rear window; he could not see whether there was a temporary permit in the front window. "[T]he absence of a rear plate or, from the officer's vantage point, a temporary tag substituting for the plate, justified the stop."
We affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
We reviewed the fundamental principles of applicable law in the companion case, Hernandez, supra, __ Cal.4th __, __.
In ruling on a motion to suppress, the trial court finds the historical facts, then determines whether the applicable rule of law has been violated. (Saunders, supra, 38 Cal.4th at pp. 1133-1134.) "We review the court's resolution of the factual inquiry under the deferential substantial-evidence standard. The ruling on whether the applicable law applies to the facts is a mixed question of law and fact that is subject to independent review. [Citation.]" (Id. at p. 1134.) This case, like Hernandez, supra, __ Cal.4th __, turns on a question of law.
"[E]xcept in those situations in which there is at least articulable and reasonable suspicion that a motorist is unlicensed or that an automobile is not registered, or that either the vehicle or an occupant is otherwise subject to seizure for violation of law, stopping an automobile and detaining the driver in order to check his driver's license and the registration of the automobile are unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.... [P]ersons in automobiles on public roadways may not for that reason alone have ...