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United States v. Gibson

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 26, 2014

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff,
v.
IRA DWAYNE GIBSON, Defendant.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO SUPPRESS Re: Dkt. No. 12

JAMES DONATO, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

On June 10, 2014, Defendant Ira Dwayne Gibson filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence and Statements. The motion seeks an order "suppressing all fruits of the unlawful seizure and search of Mr. Gibson's vehicle and person on December 22, 2013." Dkt. No. 12. The Court took argument on the motion at a hearing on July 25, 2014, which the defendant attended. The parties agreed that the Court can resolve the motion without an evidentiary hearing. The motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

In the early hours of December 22, 2013, CHP Officer Washabaugh and his partner, Officer Koehn, were on patrol in Oakland. Dkt. No. 13, Attach. 3 at 1. While stopped at the intersection of 69th Avenue and International Boulevard in Oakland, Officer Washabaugh saw a blue Buick Regal sedan on International Avenue that appeared to be speeding and weaving from side to side. Id. Officer Washabaugh followed Mr. Gibson's car with his patrol car, and his speedometer read 41 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone. Id. The officers pulled the car over, and a computer check of the California Department of Motor Vehicles' ("DMV") records showed that the Buick was registered to Mr. Gibson, and that he had a prior conviction in 2007 for Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. Id.

After approaching the driver's side, where the window was partially open, Officer Washabaugh smelled a strong odor of alcohol and saw that Mr. Gibson's eyes were bloodshot and watery. Id. Mr. Gibson did not perform field sobriety tests as explained and demonstrated, and Officer Washabaugh concluded that Mr. Gibson had been driving under the influence of alcohol. Id. He was placed under arrest and searched incident to the arrest. Id. at 1-2. A preliminary alcohol screening device detected in Mr. Gibson's breath alcohol levels of.228, .261, and.282 - far above the legal limit. Id. at 2.

In light of these very high alcohol readings, the officers determined that Mr. Gibson could not lawfully drive his car even if he were to be released from jail after six hours - the typical minimum time that he could have been released from custody. Id. The officers also decided that Mr. Gibson's car could not be left at the scene of the stop, which is a known high-crime area where many vehicles have been vandalized or stolen. Id. Consequently, the officers impounded Mr. Gibson's car under California Vehicle Code § 22651(h), which provides that a vehicle may be impounded "[w]hen an officer arrests a person driving or in control of a vehicle for an alleged offense, and the officer is, by this code or other law, required or permitted to take, and does take, the person into custody" and Vehicle Code § 14602.8(a)(1), which provides that a peace officer may immediately cause the removal and seizure of a vehicle when he or she determines that the driver has been convicted of driving under the influence within the past 10 years and the driver either is found to have 0.10 percent of alcohol in his or her blood or refuses to complete a chemical test when requested to do so. Id. at 2-3; Cal. Vehicle Code §§ 22651(h), 14602.8(a)(1). Officer Koehn did an impoundment inventory of Mr. Gibson's car while it was parked on the side of the street. Id. at 2. During the inventory, he found a handgun loaded with seven rounds of ammunition in the car's unlocked center console. Id. Mr. Gibson's car was towed to storage shortly after that. Id. at 3.

While Mr. Gibson was inside the patrol car, Officer Washabaugh read him his Miranda rights. Id. Mr. Gibson waived his rights and agreed to speak. Id. at 2. Officer Washabaugh asked Mr. Gibson if the handgun belonged to him. Id. Mr. Gibson stated that he "bought that gun a long time ago." Id.

Mr. Gibson was initially taken to Glenn Dyer (North County) Jail. Id. at 3. At the jail, Officer Washabaugh administered a chemical breath test which revealed that Mr. Gibson had a blood alcohol level of 0.25 and 0.26. Id. Mr. Gibson was subsequently transported to Santa Rita Jail. There, deputy sheriff Eng conducted a pat search of Mr. Gibson for contraband and found a plastic bag that contained a white crystalline substance inside ten individually packaged bags. Id. The substance tested positive for cocaine. Id.

On June 10, 2014, Mr. Gibson filed a Motion to Suppress Evidence and Statements. On July 11, 2014, the United States opposed the motion. Dkt. No. 13. On July 18, 2014, Mr. Gibson replied to the United States' opposition. Dkt. No. 14. On July 22, 2014, the United States filed a response to Mr. Gibson's reply without the Court's leave, and so Mr. Gibson was permitted to file a sur-reply on July 24, 2014. Dkt. Nos. 15, 17.

DISCUSSION

Mr. Gibson does not challenge the lawfulness of his stop, the arrest for driving under the influence or the impoundment of his car. He challenges only the lawfulness of the inventory search and whether the gun, his statements about the gun and the drugs subsequently found on his person at Santa Rita Jail should be suppressed as the fruit of an allegedly unlawful search.

I. Search of Mr. Gibson's Car And His Statement About the Gun

Mr. Gibson contends that the warrantless search of his car violated the Fourth Amendment, and that any statements that were the fruit of that unlawful search should be suppressed. Dkt. No. 12 at 3-4. The United States argues that the search of Mr. Gibson's car was a lawful inventory search, and so the gun found during the search, as well as ...


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