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U.S.A. v. Jones

United States District Court, C.D. California

March 29, 2018

Jason Ray Jones Defendant (s)

          Present: The Honorable STEPHEN V. WILSON, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.



         I. Introduction

         Defendant Jason Ray Jones (“Defendant”) is charged in a single-count Indictment with being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Ammunition, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Dkt. 10.) Defendant challenges the search of his car, which resulted in the discovery of a loaded .40 caliber handgun in the open center console of his car. (Dkt. 29 (Mot.) at 3-4, 6-8.) Defendant contends that the responding officer's search of his car was illegal because it was unsupported by probable cause.

         II. Factual Background

         At approximately 4:21 a.m. on May 5, 2017 San Bernardino County Deputy Sheriff Kayla Peters was dispatched to check on a suspicious vehicle at a Circle K store on Highway 18. (Declaration of Kayla Peters, ¶ 2). Deputy Peters was sent to the store in response to a call made to the sheriff's department by an employee of Circle K. (Ex. A to Defendant's Mot.). The employee of the store told the sheriff's department that a black sedan had been parked outside the store for two hours, and that the driver appeared to be asleep or intoxicated. Id. The radio dispatcher relayed this information to several patrol cars, including that of Deputy Peters. (Peters Decl. ¶ 2).

         Upon arriving at the store, Deputy Peters observed the car parked in a handicapped parking space, even though there was no indication that the car was authorized to do so. (Id. at ¶ 3). Peters also observed that the VIN of the car was covered. She then approached the car and observed Defendant through the window, seeing that he had several tattoos, one of which she identified as a gang tattoo. Defendant appeared to be asleep in the driver's seat. (Id. at ¶ 4.) She tapped on the window of the car and asked Defendant for his identification. Id. (Defendant March 29, 2018 Page 2 contends that she did not tap on the window, but rather opened the door of the car.) Defendant identified himself as “Glenn Jones, ” but did not have a valid driver's license or any other form of identification. Id. Deputy Peters ran the name through the database in her patrol car, and discovered a criminal history for Glenn Jones including an arrest for robbery and previous probation violations. Id.

         Peters subsequently returned to the car, and observed that Defendant had eyelid tremors which her training led her to believe were associated with methamphetamine use, and that he was talking rapidly. She further observed a monkey-face mask lying on the passenger seat of the car. (Id. ¶¶ 4-7). At this point, she asked Defendant to step out of the car so that she could conduct a pat down search. Id.

         Peters patted Defendant down and found nothing. (Id. at ¶ 8.) She then asked Defendant about his drug use, and he admitted to having used drugs in the last few days. Id. Upon hearing this, she had defendant sit in the back of the patrol car while she searched his vehicle. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 11). Defendant was supervised by Deputy McGee, who had arrived while Peters patted Defendant down. (Second Peters Decl. ¶ 16.) Peters then found a loaded handgun in the car, along with a small scale containing a substance resembling methamphetamine. Id.

         After Peters searched the car, another officer, Sergeant Edward Bachman, arrived on the scene. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Sgt. Bachman had also received the dispatch call regarding Defendant's vehicle, and had decided to go assist Peters. (Bachman Decl. ¶2.) Bachman made the independent decision to go to the Circle K before he knew that Peters had searched Defendant's car or found a gun. Bachman immediately recognized Defendant as Jason Jones, as he had previously encountered him several times during his time with the police department. Defendant then admitted to Bachman that his real name was Jason Jones, that he had given an incorrect name to Peters, and that he was on parole. (Id. at ¶ 3). Peters then ran a record check with the correct name and discovered that Defendant Jones was on parole and had outstanding arrest warrants for parole violations. (Id. at ¶ 12). Peters then arrested Defendant for the parole violations, as well as for being a felon in possession of a firearm. (Id. at ¶ 14.)

         Deputy McGee and Peters then conducted an inventory search of the car, and Defendant's vehicle was then towed, pursuant to California Vehicle Code § 22651(h)(1).[1] (Second Peters March 29, 2018 Page 3 Decl. ¶ 16.) This code section authorizes law enforcement to tow a vehicle once the driver of that vehicle has been arrested.

         III. Discussion

         At the first suppression hearing, the Court concluded that there was no probable cause to search Defendant's car for evidence of drug use or evidence of a robbery. The Court requested the parties file supplementary briefs, discussing the case of Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146 (2004) to determine if probable cause existed to search Defendant's car for any crime, even one that Peters did not subjectively think of. The Court concludes that there was no probable cause, but DENIES the motion to suppress based on the inevitable discovery doctrine.

         1. Peters Did Not Have Probable ...

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