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Name: People v. Gyorgy (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 659
Case #: G061567
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/14/2023

Trial court erred in denying motion to suppress evidence found during a vehicle search where the officer unlawfully prolonged a traffic stop to conduct a dog sniff and inquire into matters unrelated to the traffic violation. An officer followed defendant’s truck after being advised that the “vehicle had acted suspiciously” at a motel known for drug trafficking. The officer initiated a traffic stop after observing an unsafe lane change. For the first four or five minutes of the detention, the officer questioned defendant about matters unrelated to the traffic stop. After more than five minutes, he told defendant the basis for the stop. He ordered defendant out of the truck to conduct a patdown search after a backup officer arrived. The officer then had his canine partner, Titan, sniff the exterior of the truck. Approximately 12 minutes into the stop, Titan detected the odor of narcotics. Over defendant’s objection, the officers searched the truck’s interior and found methamphetamine and other items. Defendant’s suppression motions were denied, and he was convicted of misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia. Held: Reversed. Relying on Rodriguez v. United States (2015) 575 U.S. 348 and related case law, the Court of Appeal concluded that the officers detoured from the traffic stop’s mission of issuing a ticket for the traffic violation by conducting the dog sniff and inquiring into matters unrelated to the traffic violation and these detours prolonged the stop beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission. Even though the mission of the stop was to address the traffic infraction, the officers failed to perform any tasks related to this (i.e., checking the validity of defendant’s driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance, and writing a traffic citation). [Editor’s Note: The Court of Appeal further held that reasonable suspicion did not justify the prolonged stop because the record did not include evidence supporting that (1) the detention was made for the purpose of investigating defendant’s potential noncompliance with his sex offender registration requirements; and (2) defendant was involved with drugs. The dissent would have found that, based on the totality of the circumstances, the officer had articulated facts supporting reasonable suspicion of at least three possible law violations.]