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People v. Sardinas

January 22, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
ROLANDO PALMER SARDINAS, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Tia Fisher, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. KA081558).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mosk, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

INTRODUCTION

While on parole, defendant and appellant Rolando Sardinas (defendant) was stopped and searched by the same police officer who had searched him during a traffic stop the night before. During the second search, the officer discovered rock cocaine on defendant's person and arrested him. Prior to trial, defendant moved under Penal Code section 1538.5*fn1 to suppress the drug evidence recovered by the officer during the second search, but the trial court denied the motion. Defendant was thereafter convicted of possession for sale of cocaine base.

On appeal, defendant challenges the trial court's ruling denying his motion to suppress, arguing that the parole search of defendant by the same officer who had searched him less than 24 hours earlier constituted harassment and violated defendant's right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. We hold that although searches of a parolee can be constitutionally unreasonable, substantial evidence supports the trial court's conclusion that the parole search of defendant was not conducted to harass or for any other arbitrary reason, but rather for a legitimate law enforcement purpose and was therefore constitutionally reasonable. We therefore affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn2

A. Prior Contacts with Defendant

From the time City of Pomona Police Officer Todd Samuels first became a City of Pomona police officer five years prior to the search in question, he had seen defendant frequently, usually in an area where he observed defendant associating with cocaine base addicts. Once Officer Samuels joined the major crimes task force, he had more frequent contact with defendant because that task force dealt with "street level" narcotics and criminal street gangs.

Prior to the December 20, 2007, traffic stop, Officer Samuels had "contacted" defendant at least six or seven times, the last time being about 30 days prior to the traffic stop. Whenever he contacted defendant, Officer Samuels always confirmed that defendant was on parole.

B. The December 20 Search

While on routine patrol on December 20, 2007-the night before the search in issue-Officer Samuels observed a van driving without any illuminated taillights. Officer Samuels made a traffic stop and observed that defendant was the driver of the van. Officer Samuels asked defendant to step out of the van and confirmed that defendant was still on parole. Defendant informed Officer Samuels that he had just purchased the van that day and had not had an opportunity to repair the taillights. Officer Samuels told defendant to repair the taillights, but did not issue a citation. Officer Samuels searched defendant, but did not find anything suspicious or illegal. Officer Samuel's partner searched the van, with similar results. Officer Samuels and his partner then drove defendant home in their patrol car and searched defendant's house but, again, did not find anything suspicious or illegal.

C. The December 21 Search

On December 21, 2007, at about 5:30 p.m., Officer Samuels observed defendant walking through the parking lot of a 7-Eleven convenience store. The area around the store was known for narcotics sales, particularly the apartment complex directly across the street from the store. Officer Samuels had made numerous contacts in that area relating to the sale, use, and possession of narcotics.

As Officer Samuels drove through the convenience store parking lot, he recognized defendant because of his prior contacts with him, including the traffic stop the night before. Officer Samuels knew defendant lived about three and a half to four miles from the store. Officer Samuels did not see defendant come from the apartments directly across the street from the store and did not see anything that made him suspicious of defendant. But, because Officer Samuels wanted to ensure that defendant was in compliance with his parole conditions, he stopped his patrol vehicle, exited, and approached defendant. Before Officer Samuels said anything, defendant said, "What's up, Samuels?" Officer Samuels asked defendant what he was doing in the area, and defendant replied that he was "just walking through." According to Officer ...


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