Thursday, November 1, 2007

DUI driver's duty to proceed through green light in California

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Filed 10/31/07 P. v. Pickens CA5



Plaintiff and Respondent,



Defendant and Appellant.


(Super. Ct. No. MF007563A)


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Kern County. Clarence Westra, Jr., Judge.
Richard D. Miggins, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Apellant.
Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Kathleen A. McKenna and Connie Broussard Proctor, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Appellant appeals from a final judgment of conviction entered after he pled no contest to charges of violation of Health and Safety Code section 11350, subdivision (a) (possession of a controlled substance) and violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (a) (driving under the influence). Appellant’s motion to suppress evidence pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5 was denied prior to his entry of the no contest plea. Appellant contends his motion to suppress was improperly denied.
Deputy Sheriff Richard Garrett was on patrol when he stopped at a red traffic signal in the southbound left turn lane on Sierra Highway at its intersection with Rosamond Boulevard. There was a car stopped at the red light in the right turn lane to his right. He observed a woman on the northeast corner of the intersection clapping and dancing. The woman walked into the intersection in the crosswalk while the crosswalk sign displayed an upraised hand flashing. The southbound traffic light turned green when she was three or four feet inside the intersection; she walked in front of Deputy Garrett’s car and when she was at the passenger side of the vehicle to Deputy Garrett’s right, Deputy Garrett yelled to her to get out of the roadway. The woman told him she was going to get inside, then she got into the car that was stopped to Deputy Garrett’s right. The vehicle to his right remained stopped at the light for approximately 20 to 25 seconds after the light turned green; five seconds after the woman got into the car, it made a right turn onto Rosamond Boulevard.
Deputy Garrett followed the vehicle to stop the driver for a violation of Vehicle Code section 21451, subdivision (a) (requiring a driver to proceed on a green light), and the woman for a violation of Vehicle Code section 21456, subdivision (b) (prohibiting pedestrians from starting to cross a roadway when an upraised hand signal is flashing or steady). Deputy Garrett made a traffic stop of the vehicle and contacted the driver, appellant. When he made contact, Deputy Garrett noticed appellant’s “glossiness colored eyes,” constricted pupils and continuous, jittery movement. He later arrested appellant.
In ruling on a motion to suppress, the trial court must (1) find the historical facts, (2) select the rule of law, and (3) apply the law to the facts in order to determine whether the law as applied has been violated. (People v. Ayala (2000) 24 Cal.4th 243, 279.) The appellate court reviews the factual inquiry under the deferential substantial-evidence standard. (Ibid.) The ruling on how the applicable law applies to the facts is a mixed question of law and fact that is subject to independent review. (Ibid.) Appellate review “is confined to the correctness or incorrectness of the trial court's ruling, not the reasons for its ruling.” (People v. Dimitrov (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 18, 27.)
An officer may stop and detain a person if the circumstances known or apparent to the officer “include specific and articulable facts causing him to suspect that (1) some activity relating to crime has taken place or is occurring or about to occur, and (2) the person he intends to stop or detain is involved in that activity.” (In re Tony C. (1978) 21 Cal.3d 888, 893.) An “officer may, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, briefly detain a vehicle if the objective facts indicate that the vehicle has violated a traffic law.” (People v. White (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 1022, 1025.) Deputy Garrett stopped appellant’s vehicle in part for a violation of Vehicle Code section 21451.
“A driver facing a circular green signal shall proceed straight through or turn right or left or make a U-turn unless a sign prohibits a U-turn. Any driver, including one turning, shall yield the right-of-way to other traffic and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.” (Veh. Code § 21451, subd. (a).)
Appellant contends that there was no violation of the statute to justify the deputy’s traffic stop, because appellant had to wait for the pedestrian, who was already in the intersection, to finish crossing the street before he could proceed on the green light.
In People v. Hahn (1950) 98 Cal.App.2d Supp. 841, the court interpreted the predecessor of section 21451, former Vehicle Code section 476. The court observed:
“[T]he requirement of the statute is not that vehicular traffic shall continue to remain motionless until those lawfully in the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk have passed by, but only that it shall yield the right of way to them…. ‘[W]hen a pedestrian crossing a roadway in a crosswalk is so far from the path of an approaching automobile and proceeding in such a manner that no interference between them is reasonably to be expected, the driver of the automobile need not wait for it to develop.’ Applying these words to the possibilities of the question under consideration, we are mindful that not infrequently a pedestrian, lawfully in the crosswalk because he entered it while the signal indicated ‘Go’ [citation], is but a relatively short distance from his point of entrance, and so far distant from the waiting motor vehicle that the latter can proceed to make use of that portion of the highway lying within the crosswalk without interfering with the right of the pedestrian to use it when he reaches it. The duty placed upon the driver is not so expressed that he is required to wait until the crosswalk is clear; his duty is to wait only if necessary to avoid interference with the pedestrian.” (People v. Hahn, supra, 98 Cal.App.2d at p. Supp. 843.)
The evidence indicated the woman stepped off the sidewalk and began to cross the street when the light facing southbound traffic was still red. The southbound light turned green when she was three to four feet inside the intersection. There was one northbound traffic lane; southbound, there was one through lane, a left turn lane, and a right turn lane. Appellant’s vehicle was in the southbound right lane. Thus, the pedestrian had to cross the northbound lane and two southbound lanes before she crossed in front of appellant’s vehicle. Appellant was not required to wait for the pedestrian to finish crossing the street, if he could make his right turn without interfering with her use of the crosswalk.
There were sufficient objective facts indicating appellant’s vehicle had violated a traffic law to justify a stop of appellant’s vehicle. During a detention for a minor traffic violation, “[t]he officer may require the driver to identify himself [and] produce his driver's license and the registration certificate for the vehicle, and he may interrogate with respect to the violation or violations which he has observed.” (People v. Grace (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 447, 452.) In the course of Deputy Garrett’s inquiries during the detention, he observed appellant’s physical appearance and suspected he was under the influence of a controlled substance, which led to appellant’s arrest.
Additionally, “when there is articulable and reasonable suspicion that a … vehicle or an occupant [of it is] subject to seizure for violation of law, the vehicle may be stopped and the driver detained in order to check his or her driver's license and the vehicle's registration. (People v. Saunders (2006) 38 Cal.4th 1129, 1135.) Deputy Garrett also testified he stopped the vehicle to contact the pedestrian based on a violation of Vehicle Code section 21456. He testified that the pedestrian entered the intersection while facing a flashing upraised hand signal.
“Whenever a pedestrian control signal showing the words ‘WALK’ or ‘WAIT’ or ‘DONT WALK’ or other approved symbol is in place, the signal shall indicate as follows: [¶ ] … [¶ ]
“(b) Flashing or steady ‘DONT WALK’ or ‘WAIT’ or approved ‘Upraised Hand’ symbol. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the ‘WAIT’ or ‘DONT WALK’ or approved ‘Upraised Hand’ symbol is showing.” (Veh. Code § 21456, subd. (b).)
At the hearing, appellant’s counsel conceded that, if the pedestrian entered the crosswalk against the light, she would be in violation of this Vehicle Code section. He argued the pedestrian’s violation was a mere pretext for the stop, because Deputy Garrett could have stopped her before she got into the car, if he had wanted to issue a citation for that violation. The trial court correctly concluded the pedestrian’s violation justified the stop of appellant’s vehicle after the pedestrian entered the vehicle. Pretext does not invalidate a detention; the officer’s subjective motivation in effecting the stop is irrelevant. (Whren v. United States (1996) 517 U.S. 806, 811-816; People v. White (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 1022, 1025.)
The objective facts known to Deputy Garrett indicated the pedestrian had violated a traffic law. It was not unreasonable for him to wait for her to reach a place of safety before attempting to stop and cite her for the violation. Instead of proceeding to the curb, the pedestrian got in appellant’s car, which then drove on. Deputy Garrett had sufficient justification for stopping the vehicle based on that violation, as well as the green light violation by appellant’s vehicle. The deputy contacted the driver of the vehicle, and observed the physical signs that led him to believe appellant was under the influence of a controlled substance. The trial court properly denied the motion to suppress.
The judgment is affirmed.