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Name: People v. Bennett
Case #: B223338
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/21/2011

Detention of a motorist is reasonable where probable cause exists to believe that a traffic violation has occurred, even when the offense is a civil one subject to civil penalties and administrative enforcement. The court rejected appellant’s contention that the police officer had no right to detain him for a parking violation [parking in a designated fire lane — Veh. Code, sec. 40200] that is subject to civil penalties. On the basis of the holding in Whren v. U.S. (1996) 517 U. S. 806, this court declined to distinguish between different types of traffic violations for purposes of finding probable cause to detain. If the officer had probable cause to believe the petitioner violated the traffic code, the stop was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. Here, the officer observed appellant illegally parked in a fire lane. As he approached the vehicle to cite appellant, appellant looked at him, put the car in drive and lurched forward about three feet but stopped when ordered to do so. The officer then observed appellant throw something to the floor and directed him to get out of the car. The item was recovered and found to be cocaine. Under Whren, the detention and subsequent search were reasonable and did not violate the Fourth Amendment.