People v. Monroe

Decision Date27 January 1993
Docket NumberNo. A053694,A053694
Citation12 Cal.App.4th 1174,16 Cal.Rptr.2d 267
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. William Erik MONROE, Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Atty. Gen., George Williamson, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., John H. Sugiyama, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Laurence K. Sullivan, Supervising Deputy Atty. Gen., Ann K. Jensen, Deputy Atty. Gen., San Francisco, for plaintiff and respondent.

BENSON, Associate Justice.

Defendant William Erik Monroe was the passenger in a car driven by another when he was arrested for possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. When he was unable to produce "for examination" either a driver's license or "other satisfactory evidence of his identity," (Veh. Code, § 40302, subd. (a)), the arresting officer took him into custody. 1 A search of his person turned up rock cocaine, and he was charged with and convicted of possession of cocaine base for sale. (Health & Saf.Code, § 11351.5.) In this appeal, he argues the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the cocaine. His principal attack is on the officer's decision to take him into custody. He argues that either the statute required the officer to give him an adequate opportunity to provide "other" evidence of his identity, or that the statute is unconstitutionally vague if read to allow the officer to take him into custody under the circumstances of this case. We disagree. We find the statute implicitly grants an officer discretion to determine what "other" evidence of identity is sufficient when a traffic citee is unable to produce a driver's license or other documentary evidence of equivalent reliability. We affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

We derive the facts from the hearing on the motion to suppress. In our summary, we present the evidence in the light most favorable to the ruling below. (See, e.g., People v. Leyba (1981) 29 Cal.3d 591, 596-598, 174 Cal.Rptr. 867, 629 P.2d 961.)

In the early afternoon of December 28, 1990, uniformed Oakland Police officers Kevin Johnson and Mike Brown were on patrol in an unmarked car which was equipped with red lights and a siren. The officers were on the alert for a homicide suspect who was believed to be in the area. As they passed a blue 1990 Chevrolet on the right, Officer Johnson saw defendant Monroe, who was the passenger in the Chevrolet. Officer Johnson had stopped the homicide suspect before, and had reviewed booking photographs of the suspect before going on shift. Officer Johnson had only seen Monroe in profile, but Monroe's appearance matched that of the suspect in several respects, and the area the officers were in was one of the suspect's usual haunts. In an attempt to confirm his suspicion, Officer Johnson pulled up next to the Chevrolet at a red light, but Monroe turned After the Chevrolet stopped, Officer Johnson walked up on the driver's side and looked into car. When he saw Monroe's face, he realized Monroe was not the suspect they were looking for. However, as Officer Johnson approached the car, he had also seen an open and half-empty bottle of beer on the floorboard of the driver's side of the car, and a cup in front of Monroe on the passenger's side floorboard. Officer Brown, who had walked up on the passenger's side of the car, saw a large cup of beer on the floorboards, and smelled beer through the open window. Like Officer Johnson, Officer Brown saw within a few seconds that Monroe was not the homicide suspect they were looking for. However, because Officer Brown suspected alcohol violations, he asked Monroe to get out of the car, and asked him for identification. Officer Brown gave varying accounts of Monroe's response. He testified several times that Monroe said he had no identification "with him," and also that Monroe simply stated he did "not have any I.D." Following the exchange between them, Officer Brown decided to take Monroe into custody under the authority of section 40302, subd. (a). Subsequent searches of Monroe's person turned up the contraband which was to be the basis of the conviction we review here. While in custody at the scene of the stop, Monroe told the officers he was a parolee, and gave the addresses of his mother and girlfriend. A computer check by the officers confirmed there was a parolee whose name and date of birth matched those given by Monroe.

away from him and remained in that position until the light changed. Officers Johnson and Brown continued to follow the Chevrolet while they ran a registration check. The check revealed the car was a rental from Ohio. Because the homicide [12 Cal.App.4th 1179] suspect had reportedly recently been in Ohio, Officer Johnson decided at that point to stop the Chevrolet. When the officers turned on the red lights and siren, Officer Brown saw Monroe move as though reaching to the floorboard of the car.

Monroe filed a written motion to suppress on the general ground that the search was illegal. After the hearing on the motion, Monroe filed papers in which he argued that Officer Brown's decision to take him into custody was not authorized by section 40302 because Officer Brown had not made any adequate attempt to identify him. In those papers, Monroe noted he had not had the benefit of a transcript of the evidentiary hearing on the motion, and reserved the issues of the propriety of the initial stop and decision to cite Monroe for Vehicle Code alcohol violations. At argument, Monroe added claims that the officers lacked a reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify the traffic stop, and that their decision to cite for the open container violation was a pretext for a search of the car. The motion was denied, Monroe was tried and convicted, and this appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

The principal question raised in this appeal is the proper application and constitutional validity of section 40302, subdivision (a), which makes custodial arrest of a traffic violator mandatory if the violator cannot produce either a driver's license or other satisfactory evidence of his or her identity. Appellant was taken into custody and searched when he told the arresting officer he did not have any identification on his person. 2 We will conclude the officer's decision to take appellant into custody was a proper exercise of the discretion necessarily granted by section 40302 in those cases in which a person arrested for a minor Vehicle Code violation is unable to produce a driver's license or its functional equivalent.

A. Statutory Scheme

In People v. Superior Court [Simon] (1972) 7 Cal.3d 186, 199, 101 Cal.Rptr. 837, 496 P.2d 1205 (hereafter Simon), our Supreme Court explained the "procedure to be followed after a warrantless arrest for a Vehicle Code violation." (Ibid.) Though there have been amendments and additions to the Vehicle Code in the years since Simon was decided, it remains a concise and accurate summary of the law. "If [the Vehicle Code] violation is declared to be a felony, the arrestee is to be dealt with according to the general provisions of the Penal Code on felony arrests. (Veh.Code, § 40301.) For all other cases, however, the Legislature has created a special tripartite scheme which reflects the lesser degree of criminality attached to the act of transgressing against ordinary traffic rules and regulations. [p] First, the scheme in effect presumes that in the vast majority of cases the violator will not be taken into custody: with the exception of the instances next discussed, the officer must prepare a written notice to appear (i.e., a citation or 'ticket'), and must release the violator 'forthwith' when the latter in turn gives his written promise that he will appear as directed (§§ 40500, 40504). Indeed, such a violator may avoid the necessity for appearing in court: he may choose to deposit the prescribed bail by mail (§ 40510) and, by failing thereafter to appear, forfeit that amount in lieu of fine (§ 40512). [p] Second, in certain cases, section 40303 gives the officer the option either to follow the foregoing procedure or to take the violator 'without unnecessary delay' before the 'nearest or most accessible' magistrate having jurisdiction over the offense. The section lists a number of more serious violations as grounds for invoking this option, such as reckless driving, failure to stop after a accident, participating in speed contests, driving with an invalid license, attempt to evade arrest, and refusal to submit to safety inspections. [p] Third, section 40302 makes it mandatory for the officer to follow the latter branch of the section 40303 option--i.e., to take the violator before a magistrate without unnecessary delay--in four specific instances: i.e., when the violator (a) fails to present his driver's license or other satisfactory evidence of his identity, (b) refuses to give his written promise to appear, or (c) demands an immediate appearance before a magistrate, or (d) when the violator is charged with the very serious traffic offenses [defined by former section 23102, driving under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants]." (Simon, supra, 7 Cal.3d at pp. 199-200, 101 Cal.Rptr. 837, 496 P.2d 1205.)

In addition to the situations described in Simon, it is worth noting that an officer has the option of bringing a non-felony traffic violator before a magistrate in several other situations; (1) where the motorist has been involved in a traffic accident or is obstructing traffic, and the officer has reason to believe the motorist was driving under the influence of liquor or drugs (§ 40300.5), (2) where an officer of the California Highway Patrol has arrested a person for violating a vehicular provision of state law not found in the Vehicle Code (§ 40304), or (3) where the officer has arrested a nonresident of this...

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