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People v. Greenwood

October 28, 2010

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
ALBERT GREENWOOD, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, William C. Ryan, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BA356979).

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Officers on patrol ran a computer check on a vehicle through the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records, which indicated registration of the vehicle expired two years earlier. The vehicle had a temporary permit affixed to the rear window. The officers stopped the vehicle and discovered a phencyclidine cigarette. The trial court denied a motion to suppress the cigarette as a product of an unlawful vehicle stop, distinguishing People v. Hernandez (2008) 45 Cal.4th 295 (Hernandez). We affirm on the basis that the report from the DMV that the registration was not current, without any mention of a valid temporary permit, justified the vehicle stop.

Background

Defendant and appellant Albert Greenwood was charged with possession of phencyclidine in violation of Health and Safety Code section 11377, subdivision (a). The information alleged five prior prison terms (Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b)) and one prior conviction under the three strikes law (Pen. Code, §§ 1170.12, subds. (a)-(d), 667, subds. (b)-(i)). After denial of his motion to suppress the product of the vehicle stop under Penal Code section 1538.5, defendant entered a plea of no contest to the charged offense, admitted the prior conviction under the three strikes law, and was sentenced to state prison for 32 months.

In this timely appeal from the judgment, defendant argues the stop of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment.

The Penal Code Section 1538.5 Hearing

Officers James Moon and Ryan Marshall were on patrol on May 25, 2009, at 11:05 p.m. when they saw a vehicle driven by defendant. The officers ran a computer check of the DMV records on the license plate and learned the registration expired in July 2007. The vehicle displayed a temporary operating permit with the number "5" (indicating it was for the month of May) affixed to the rear window. Officer Moon believed issuance of this type of sticker by the DMV allowed a vehicle owner to drive a vehicle only for the limited purpose of completing a smog check. Because of the late hour, the officer did not believe the car was being driven to complete a smog check. A traffic stop was effectuated, during which a cigarette dipped in phencyclidine was discovered and defendant was arrested. The temporary permit did not have any driving restriction stated on it.

Defendant testified he obtained the temporary permit sticker from the DMV three weeks before his arrest. The temporary permit allowed him to drive without limitation until the end of May, so he could complete his smog check during that month.

Based upon information obtained from the DMV by the prosecutor after the first day of the hearing on the motion to suppress evidence, the parties stipulated that defendant's temporary permit was valid and the DMV records showed the vehicle registration was suspended.

At the conclusion of the hearing, defendant argued the stop of his vehicle violated the Fourth Amendment because of the existence of the temporary permit sticker. The trial court ruled the officers acted reasonably, despite the presence of the temporary permit, because the information from the DMV indicated the registration on the vehicle lapsed in 2007. The court found the officers had the right to stop the vehicle to investigate whether it was lawfully driven.

Discussion

Defendant argues the traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Defendant contends the stop was not objectively reasonable because the officers were aware of the temporary permit on the rear window of his car. He reasons the temporary permit is intended to signal that the motorist has complied with the registration requirement and a stop to conduct a general ...


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