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Name: People v. Arebalos-Cabrera
Case #: D074047
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/14/2018
Summary

After informing defendant he was free to leave a traffic stop, officer’s request for consent to search defendant’s vehicle was a consensual encounter that did not implicate the Fourth Amendment. A multiagency narcotics task force alerted CHP officers of suspicious activity and identified Arebalos’ tractor-trailer as possibly transporting narcotics. A CHP officer located Arebalos’ tractor on the highway and stopped him for traffic violations. During the stop, which was approximately 20 minutes, the officer checked Arebalos’ documentation and reviewed his logbook. The officer gave Arebalos his documents back and told him he was free to leave. As Arebalos was walking back to his tractor, the officer asked for his consent to search the tractor. Arebalos agreed, both verbally and in writing. The officer discovered two secret compartments containing roughly $500,000 worth of illegal narcotics. Arebalos moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that he had been illegally detained at the time he gave consent because the traffic stop had been unconstitutionally extended and that his consent was involuntary. The court denied the suppression motion, and a jury convicted Arebalos of various drug offenses. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. A driver’s detention at a traffic stop is a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The detention ordinarily continues and remains reasonable during the duration of the stop and ends when the driver is told that he is free to leave. A police officer’s questioning of a defendant after the stop has ended is consensual, and does not implicate the Fourth Amendment, unless a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave or otherwise terminate the questioning. Here, the officer returned Arebalos’ documents, told him he was free to leave, and allowed him to walk partway back to his car. A reasonable person in his position would in fact believe he was free to go when the officer asked for consent. The request for consent itself was not coercive and was not accompanied by an explicit or implicit show of force.

Trial court did not err by denying a second suppression motion because substantial evidence supported finding that defendant did not present newly discovered evidence. Following his first trial that ended in a hung jury and mistrial, Arebalos filed a second motion to suppress, arguing that the officer’s testimony at a codefendant’s preliminary hearing contradicted his testimony at the prior suppression hearing. At the preliminary hearing, the officer testified that Arebalos’ tractor had been pointed out to him by members of the narcotics task force. In support of the second motion, Arebalos’ attorney stated that this was new evidence that went to the heart of the officer’s credibility regarding the true reason for the stop. The trial court denied the second suppression motion, finding that the evidence was not new and did not raise issues about the officer’s credibility. Arebalos challenged the denial of his second motion to suppress on appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded there was no error. A defendant is allowed only one pretrial suppression motion in the superior court, and that court is without jurisdiction to hear a second motion. There are certain exceptions to this rule, for example where a defendant did not have a full and fair opportunity to litigate his motion or new evidence has been discovered. Here, the trial court explicitly found that Arebalos’ proffered evidence was not new. Defense counsel was aware of the information regarding the surveillance of the defendant prior to the first motion, neither counsel questioned the officer regarding circumstances that led to his communications with the surveillance team, and, beyond speculation, it is unclear how this information was material to the suppression motion. Arebalos had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the grounds of his motion at the first hearing, and substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that there was no newly discovered evidence.