People v. Suennen, Cr. 20129

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtNEWSOM; RACANELLI, P. J., and GRODIN
Citation114 Cal.App.3d 192,170 Cal.Rptr. 677
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Leo SUENNEN, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberCr. 20129
Decision Date31 December 1980

Page 677

170 Cal.Rptr. 677
114 Cal.App.3d 192
PEOPLE of the State of California, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Leo SUENNEN, Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 20129.
Court of Appeal, First District, Division 1, California.
Dec. 31, 1980.
As Modified Jan. 26, 1981.
Hearing Denied Feb. 25, 1981.

[114 Cal.App.3d 196]

Page 679

Garrett C. Dailey, Oakland, for plaintiff and respondent.

George Deukmejian, Atty. Gen., Robert H. Philibosian, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., Edward P. O'Brien, Asst. Atty. Gen., William D. Stein, Carol M. Slatin, Deputy Attys. Gen., San Francisco, for defendant and appellant.

NEWSOM, Associate Justice.

Appellant Leo Suennan entered pleas of guilty to charges of burglary (Pen.Code, § 459), receiving stolen property (Pen[114 Cal.App.3d 197] Code, § 496), and possession of a firearm by a felon (Pen.Code, § 12021), and admitted three prior felony convictions. He appeals from the judgments of convictions entered on those guilty pleas. The sole argument presented by appellant is that the trial court improperly denied his pretrial motion to suppress.

The following facts are pertinent to the search and seizure issues raised on appeal:

On the evening of February 26, 1979, Officer Jerry Hummel of the Concord Police Department observed that a 1970 Pontiac Bonneville approaching a stop sign appeared to be modified below rim height in violation of Vehicle Code section 24008. For that reason, the officer made a traffic stop of the vehicle at 7:54 p. m. The vehicle did not delay in responding to the officer's red light; no furtive movements on the part of either driver or the passenger were observed.

Page 680

Officer Hummel approached the automobile and asked the driver, appellant, for his license and registration; codefendant Ronald Hohstadt was sitting in the front passenger seat on the right side. Identification obtained from the occupants indicated they were from Vallejo.

As the officer stood at the driver's side, he observed, in plain sight, the following: a large (8-inch blade) knife in a sheath on the seat between the two occupants; a pair of dark leather gloves; two cans of beer (at least one of which was open); and a large partially filled pillowcase placed upright on the right front floorboard at the feet of the passenger.

In response to Officer Hummel's inquiry, the occupants said they were coming from Pittsburg. However, the officer testified appellant's route of travel on Matheson Road indicated the two were coming from a residential area in Concord.

Based upon his observations of the partially full pillowcase, the weapon and the gloves, and his knowledge that the defendants were from outside the area, Hummel suspected that a burglary had just been committed-particularly since he had previously received information during police-briefing sessions concerning a recent series of evening, residential "pillowcase burglaries" in the Concord area.

While appellant was being escorted to the rear of the car, a "cover" officer (Foley) arrived at the scene. Hummel immediately informed Officer Foley to remove the passenger and pat-search him for weapons. The pat-search of Hohstadt uncovered two flashlights and two screwdrivers[114 Cal.App.3d 198] which were seized. No weapons or contraband were found as the result of a pat-search of appellant.

Once appellant was removed to the rear of the vehicle, and prior to writing a traffic citation, Officer Hummel-at approximately 7:56 p. m.-requested warrant checks on each suspect. At 7:59 p. m. he was advised by dispatch of an outstanding traffic warrant for the arrest of appellant. Once confirmation of the warrant was received at 8:04 p. m., appellant was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the patrol car.

Officer Hummel then proceeded to appellant's vehicle to seize the alcohol containers, remove the weapon, and "examine the contents." The officer removed the two beer cans in plain sight, and then pushed the pillowcase slightly to check behind it for additional alcohol. He noted that the pillowcase "contained numerous objects, was approximately half full."

After removing the beer cans, Officer Hummel returned to the vehicle and opened the pillowcase. The pillowcase was merely folded over rather than tied or otherwise secured; Hummel simply lifted the fold to look inside. He observed therein "numerous items, boxes of jewelry, boxes of coins, a stamp collection, rings, a box of .22 caliber ammunition; and there were some personal belongings in there, some socks, mouthwash, toiletry items."

The officer also uncovered a loaded .22 caliber pistol under the right front (passenger) seat.

Hohstadt was thereupon arrested for possession of a concealed, loaded gun and the officers took custody of the pillowcase, gun, gloves, beer and knife, and locked appellant's vehicle. The trunk was also searched, but no evidence pertinent to the present appeal was found.

On these facts, appellant asserts that the detention and search of his vehicle and its contents were unlawful. Appellant contests neither the original traffic stop nor the officer's request that appellant alight from the vehicle-both of which we think were unquestionably proper. Appellant's first claim is, instead, that the pat-search of passenger Hohstadt by officer Foley was improper.

"That officers have the right to conduct a pat-down search, under proper circumstances, cannot be denied." (People v. Craig (1978) [114 Cal.App.3d 199] 86 Cal.App.3d 905, 912, 150 Cal.Rptr. 676.) However, sufficient cause for such an intrusion must be shown. "A frisk following a detention for investigation is an additional intrusion, and can be justified only by specification and articulation of facts supporting a reasonable suspicion that the individual is armed." (People v.

Page 681

Smith (1973) 30 Cal.App.3d 277, 279, 106 Cal.Rptr. 272.)

This basic legal standard, enunciated in Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1, 27, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1883, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, has been restated often as follows: "The officer need not be absolutely certain that the individual is armed. The issue is whether a reasonably prudent man under the circumstances would be warranted in his belief that his safety or that of others was in danger." (People v. Allen (1979) 50 Cal.App.3d 896, 902, 123 Cal.Rptr. 80; People v. Hubbard (1970) 9 Cal.App.3d 827, 830, 88 Cal.Rptr. 411.)

Officer Hummel's observations following the traffic stop, coupled with his prior knowledge, provided sufficient cause for conducting a pat-search. He was aware of recent local pillowcase burglaries from briefings and station house discussions. The plain view observation of a half-filled pillowcase and dark gloves on the vehicle floor, along with the conflict between appellant's account of his whereabouts and the officer's knowledge of the area, gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that the suspects may have been involved in a burglary. Officer Hummel had also observed beer cans, at least one of which had already been opened, and a large buck knife in the vehicle within easy reach of the occupants. Moreover, it was dark, and two officers did not outnumber the suspects so as to negate any threat or danger.

Based upon the officer's reasonable suspicion that he may have been dealing with burglars, and his knowledge that the suspects had at least one weapon within reach, the pat-search of passenger Hohstadt was justifiable self-protection. (People v. Remiro (1979) 89 Cal.App.3d 809, 829, 153 Cal.Rptr. 89; People v. Satchell (1978) 81 Cal.App.3d 347, 354, 146 Cal.Rptr. 307; People v. Superior Court (Torres) (1977) 67 Cal.App.3d 620, 624-625, 136 Cal.Rptr. 779; People v. Myles (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 423, 430, 123 Cal.Rptr. 348.) Officer Foley properly acted upon the knowledge which Hummel imparted to him and the request to conduct a pat-search. (Whiteley v. Warden (1970) 401 U.S. 560, 568, 91 S.Ct. 1031, 1037, 28 L.Ed.2d 306; People v. Hill (1974) 12 Cal.3d 731, 748, 117 Cal.Rptr. 393, 528 P.2d 1; People v. Baird (1971) 18 Cal.App.3d 450, 454, 95 Cal.Rptr. 700.) Foley was also entitled[114 Cal.App.3d 200] to seize and remove the "hard objects" two flashlights and two screwdrivers as they were justifiably perceived as potential weapons (People v. Hill, supra, at p. 747, 117 Cal.Rptr. 393, 528 P.2d 1; People v. Allen, supra, 50 Cal.App.3d 896, 902, 123 Cal.Rptr. 80.)

Citing the recent California Supreme Court holding in People v. McGaughran (1979) 25 Cal.3d 577, 159 Cal.Rptr. 191, 601 P.2d 207, appellant also contends that he was unreasonably detained while a warrant check was run.

We recount the evidence in chronological sequence: the traffic stop was made at 7:54 p. m., the warrant check was requested at 7:56 p. m. (just as Officer Hummel was preparing to issue the vehicle citation), information from dispatch as to the outstanding traffic warrant was received at 7:59 p. m., and the warrant was confirmed at 8:04 p. m. Appellant claims that McGaughran dictates suppression of all subsequently seized evidence because the traffic warrant procedure would have taken only "two to three minutes" to complete.

In People v. McGaughran, supra, 25 Cal.3d 577, 159 Cal.Rptr. 191, 601 P.2d 207, our high court relied upon Vehicle Code section 40504 to declare that a warrant check which exceeds the time necessary to complete the officer's duties constitutes an unreasonably prolonged detention. It was the court's ruling that a detention which was continued for approximately 10 minutes after completion of the traffic citation procedure was unlawful.

The court recognized, however, that a detention which furnishes sufficient cause to prolong the investigation beyond the time required to issue a traffic citation may properly continue while a warrant check is run. The basis of the court's suppression...

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27 practice notes
  • Miller v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 6, 1981
    ...of what expectation of privacy an individual might reasonably have for a particular container. (See, e.g., People v. Suennen (1980) 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 170 Cal.Rptr. 677 (pillow case search O.K.); People v. Diaz (1980) 101 Cal.App.3d 440, 161 Cal.Rptr. 645 (Jack-in-the-Box cup with lid coul......
  • People v. Cardenas, Cr. 13147
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 23, 1982
    ...the Fourth Amendment (1974) 58 Minn.L.Rev. 349, 402.) Such a judicial value judgment was exercised by the court in People v. Suennen, 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 170 Cal.Rptr. 677, where the seizure and examination of the contents of a pillowcase from the front floorboard of the automobile was uphe......
  • People v. Franklin
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 26, 1985
    ...in his belief that his safety was in danger. (Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S. at p. 27, 88 S.Ct. at p. 1883; People v. Suennen (1980) 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 199, 170 Cal.Rptr. 677; People v. Allen (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 896, 902, 123 Cal.Rptr. In the case at bench there were specific and articula......
  • The People v. Perkins, A126656
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 20, 2010
    ...and articulation of facts supporting a reasonable suspicion that the individual is armed." ' [Citation.]" (People v. Suennen (1980) 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 199; United States v. Flippin (9th Cir. 1991) 924 F.2d 163, 165; People v. Tobin (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 634, 638; see also People v. Frankli......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Miller v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 6, 1981
    ...of what expectation of privacy an individual might reasonably have for a particular container. (See, e.g., People v. Suennen (1980) 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 170 Cal.Rptr. 677 (pillow case search O.K.); People v. Diaz (1980) 101 Cal.App.3d 440, 161 Cal.Rptr. 645 (Jack-in-the-Box cup with lid coul......
  • People v. Cardenas, Cr. 13147
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 23, 1982
    ...the Fourth Amendment (1974) 58 Minn.L.Rev. 349, 402.) Such a judicial value judgment was exercised by the court in People v. Suennen, 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 170 Cal.Rptr. 677, where the seizure and examination of the contents of a pillowcase from the front floorboard of the automobile was uphe......
  • People v. Franklin
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 26, 1985
    ...in his belief that his safety was in danger. (Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S. at p. 27, 88 S.Ct. at p. 1883; People v. Suennen (1980) 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 199, 170 Cal.Rptr. 677; People v. Allen (1975) 50 Cal.App.3d 896, 902, 123 Cal.Rptr. In the case at bench there were specific and articula......
  • The People v. Perkins, A126656
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 20, 2010
    ...and articulation of facts supporting a reasonable suspicion that the individual is armed." ' [Citation.]" (People v. Suennen (1980) 114 Cal.App.3d 192, 199; United States v. Flippin (9th Cir. 1991) 924 F.2d 163, 165; People v. Tobin (1990) 219 Cal.App.3d 634, 638; see also People v. Frankli......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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