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The People v. Gregory Allen Miller

October 26, 2012

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
GREGORY ALLEN MILLER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. No. CRF11031)

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

P. v. Miller CA

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

After the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence (Pen. Code, § 1538.5) (section 1538.5), defendant Gregory Allen Miller pled no contest to driving under the influence of alcohol (Veh. Code, § 23152, subd. (a)), and admitted sustaining three prior convictions involving driving under the influence within the past 10 years (Veh. Code, § 23550). The trial court sentenced him to probation.

Defendant appeals, contending the trial court erred in denying his section 1538.5 motion because the deputy who detained him did not have probable cause to stop his car under Vehicle Code section 5201 (section 5201), on which the deputy purported to rely. Disagreeing, we shall affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

According to the affidavit of probable cause filed after defendant's arrest for driving under the influence, defendant's truck "had a ball hitch covering the rear plate" at the time of the stop. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer completing the affidavit added that defendant showed "all signs of intoxication" and failed his field sobriety tests.*fn2

Defendant filed a section 1538.5 motion, wherein he argued that because his "license plate was in a position to be clearly visible as provided by law," he did not violate section 5201*fn3 and thus "the officer did not have the legal right to stop [defendant's truck]." The People did not file written opposition, but instead agreed with defendant to submit the motion to the trial court on the following factual stipulation: "[O]n December 31[], 2010, in the county of Yuba, the defendant was driving a pickup truck, which is pictured in . . . People's 1, when it was stopped by the Yuba County Sheriff's Office, Deputy Thornton, and this is what the deputy could view."*fn4 The court accepted People's 1 into evidence. The People argued that section 5201 as construed by People v. White (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 1022 (White), which we address post in our Discussion, provided the deputy with probable cause to stop the truck.

The trial court looked at the photograph, read the license number (6T36883) into the record, and obtained the parties' confirmation that the same license number appeared in the police report. Announcing that it was compelled by White to deny defendant's motion, the trial court purported to "make a factual finding that every single letter and all the digits on this license plate can be determined even with that ball in place."

DISCUSSION

Defendant contends the trial court erred in denying his motion because, as it found his license plate number was completely unobstructed, section 5201 does not apply. He adds that, so far as White, supra, 93 Cal.App.4th 1022, holds otherwise, it misconstrues the statute. The People counter that substantial evidence does not support the trial court's factual finding; consequently, White is on point and correctly construes section 5201.

As we will explain, here the trial court reached the correct result, despite its unsupported factual finding. Accordingly, we shall affirm. (See California Aviation, ...


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