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People v. Branner

April 20, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
JASPER DWIGHT BRANNER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, Troy L. Nunley, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. 04F11213).

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

After the magistrate denied his motion to suppress evidence, defendant Jasper Dwight Branner pled no contest to possession of cocaine base for sale and admitted a prior conviction in exchange for dismissal of the remaining two counts and enhancement allegations. The trial court imposed the low term with additional years for the prior conviction for a total of six years in state prison.

On appeal, defendant contends the magistrate erroneously denied his suppression motion. Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In November 2004, Sergeant Kenneth Georges of the Sacramento County Sheriff‟s Department was watching an apartment complex on Howe Avenue because of complaints regarding narcotics sales in its parking lot. On November 27, 2004, Sergeant Georges saw a Jeep and ran a records check on the license number. From this check, he learned defendant was the registered owner. Sergeant Georges then ran a records check on defendant and learned defendant was required by law to report his residence to local law enforcement because of a prior narcotics conviction. Sergeant Georges did not know if defendant was at the apartment complex that night.

The next month, Sergeant Georges watched the complex again with several officers, including Detective Jeff Spackman, because there were still complaints about narcotics sales. On December 17, 2004, Sergeant Georges and Detective Spackman were both wearing plain clothes and driving an unmarked car. Because they could not find a suitable parking space when they first drove into the parking lot, they exited to re-enter the lot to look again.

As they turned back into the parking lot, they saw the same Jeep from the previous surveillance "start to pull in front of [them and] go into the complex." They followed the Jeep, which stopped at the northwest corner of the complex near a laundry room for approximately 10 minutes. At one point while it was stopped, the officers saw all of the Jeep‟s passengers get out. Eventually, three people returned to the Jeep, including defendant, who was the driver. The defendant drove east through the parking lot and turned south, passing the officers. At this time, the officers saw the rear license plate light was not working and one of the headlights was misaligned so it would light the ground four to five feet in front of the Jeep.

After the defendant passed the officers in the Jeep, "[i]t continued southbound and then made a left-hand turn around the corner of the apartment complex to head east out to Howe Avenue." When the officers followed and began turning to leave the parking lot onto Howe Avenue, they saw the Jeep had pulled over with a passenger door open, and a man was urinating on a wall inside the complex less than 10 feet from the Jeep. The officers approached the Jeep while it was still inside the parking lot.

While Sergeant Georges contacted the man urinating on the wall, Detective Spackman approached defendant and identified himself. Detective Spackman "explained what was going on" and asked defendant and the other passenger if they were on probation or parole or had any outstanding warrants; they said no. When Detective Spackman asked for identification, defendant produced a driver‟s license and the other passenger produced a California ID card. The male who urinated was placed in the car of another officer who had just arrived. Ultimately, the officers gave the man a warning.

Detective Spackman went to his car and called the records division to determine if defendant and the other passenger were on probation or parole or had any outstanding warrants. The records check took "probably less than five minutes." During this records check, Sergeant Georges began asking defendant and the other passenger if they were on probation or parole, "basic questions of that nature."

As a result of the records check, Detective Spackman learned defendant was listed as a "[Health and Safety Code section] 11590 registrant" and learned his last registered address. He relayed these results to Sergeant Georges. Sergeant Georges, then roughly 10 minutes into what was ultimately a 15-minute conversation with defendant, asked him about his residence. Defendant responded he had not lived at his last registered address for at least eight months. Consequently, Sergeant Georges told defendant he was under arrest for not registering his address. He took the other passenger out of the Jeep and, with another deputy‟s help, searched it. The parties stipulated the officers‟ search of the Jeep produced cocaine base and a gun. No officer wrote a citation for the traffic offenses that night.

DISCUSSION

Defendant contends the magistrate erred in not suppressing evidence the officers acquired when they ...


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