Super. Ct. No. SC071330A) Trial court: San Mateo County Superior Court Trial judge: Hon. John W. Runde and Hon. Lisa A. Novak
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Needham, J.
CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION
During a traffic stop for failure to signal a left turn, police discovered that appellant Anthony Leon Durant was carrying a loaded handgun despite his status as a convicted felon currently on probation. After the court denied his motion to suppress evidence under Penal Code section 1538.5, appellant pled no contest to a single count of firearm possession by a felon, admitted a prior conviction allegation under the Three Strikes law, and was placed on felony probation after the trial court struck the "strike." (Pen. Code, §§ 12021, subd. (a)(1), 1170.12; People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497.) We affirm the judgment, rejecting appellant's claim that the court should have granted his motion to suppress.
The following evidence was adduced at the suppression hearing:
Shortly after midnight on June 19, 2010, appellant was stopped by a San Mateo Gang Task Force unit for a traffic violation in the area of Bayshore Boulevard and Carter Avenue. He was driving a black Pontiac and had three passengers in his car. Daly City Police Department Officers Taylor and Miller, along with Millbrae Police Department Sergeant Fregosi, formed another task force unit that assisted in the stop. Taylor learned from dispatch during the stop that appellant was on probation subject to search conditions. Appellant and his passengers were not taken into custody.
The following evening, Officers Taylor and Miller went on task force patrol with Sergeant Fregosi not far from the location where appellant had been stopped the night before. At about 10:55 p.m., Taylor was driving the patrol car northbound on Bayshore Boulevard and saw a black Pontiac that was travelling in front of them pull into the dedicated left-turn lane at the intersection at Guadalupe Canyon Parkway. Appellant was driving the Pontiac, though Taylor did not initially recognize him from their contact the previous evening. Appellant stopped at the red turn arrow for over 30 seconds and made a left turn onto westbound Guadalupe when the light changed to a green arrow, but at no time did he activate the car's turn signal. Several vehicles that were travelling southbound on Bayshore stopped at the intersection as appellant began making the left turn; one of these vehicles was in the right-turn lane.
Officer Taylor believed that the failure to signal was a violation of Vehicle Code section 22108,*fn1 which provides, "Any signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning." He activated the patrol car lights to initiate a traffic stop. Although Taylor had not recognized appellant up until that point, immediately after he turned on the lights Officer Miller reminded him that the driver was the person who had been stopped by task force officers earlier that day. Taylor then recognized appellant and the car.
After appellant pulled over, Officer Taylor approached on the driver's side and the other officers approached on the passenger's side. Taylor asked appellant if he had his driver's license and appellant said no; Taylor asked appellant whether he was still on probation and appellant said yes. Appellant denied having anything illegal and gave Taylor consent to search him and his car. Taylor performed a patdown for weapons and found a loaded handgun in appellant's waistband.
Defense counsel argued that the traffic stop was an illegal seizure under the Fourth Amendment because the Vehicle Code did not require appellant to signal while in a dedicated left-turn lane and Officer Taylor did not have a reasonable suspicion that a traffic violation had occurred. The prosecution responded that the stop was proper because vehicles travelling in the other direction were stopped at the light and section 22107 requires "the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement." The prosecution also noted that by the time of the search, Officer Taylor knew that appellant was on probation subject to search conditions.
The trial court denied the motion to suppress. It took judicial notice that at the time of the traffic stop, appellant was on felony probation in a prior burglary case, and that a condition of his probation required him to "submit to search and seizure of his person, place of residence, or area under his control, or his vehicle by any probation officer or peace officer." The court agreed with defense counsel that "no signal was required by [appellant] and that a traffic stop under these circumstances [wasn't] supported by the code," but it concluded that the patdown search was authorized by the conditions of appellant's probation. The court found that the officers did not act in an arbitrary, capricious or harassing way in conducting the probation search; hence, suppression of the gun was not required.
"The standard of appellate review of a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress is well established. We defer to the trial court's factual findings, express or implied, where supported by substantial evidence. In determining whether, on the facts so found, the search or seizure was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, we exercise our independent judgment." (People v. Glaser (1995) 11 Cal.4th 354, 362.) In cases where the facts are essentially undisputed, we independently determine the constitutionality of the challenged search or seizure. (People v Balint (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 200, 215.) The trial court's ruling may ...