Thursday, November 21, 2013

P. v. Vangelder, S195423

Vehicle Code (California): DUI: defendant consented to two in-field preliminary alcohol screening breath tests using an Intoximeter Alco-Sensor IV.  Such a test is “preliminary” in the sense that it is employed — only with the driver’s actual consent — prior to any arrest, in order to assist an investigating officer in determining whether to arrest the driver (See Vehicle Code section 23612, subdivision (h) (a preliminary alcohol screening test (PAS) is an investigative tool used to determine whether there is reasonable cause for arrest)).  As explained in 72 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 226, 227 (1989), a preliminary test is “distinguished from the chemical testing of a driver’s blood, breath or urine contemplated by the implied consent law (Veh. Code, § 23612) which is administered after the driver is arrested, and is sometimes referred to as ‘evidentiary’ or evidential testing.” (…) Based on his observations and the preliminary breath tests, Guzman believed that defendant was under the influence of alcohol, arrested him, and transported him to the county jail.  There, defendant was subject to additional chemical testing under the implied consent law, Vehicle Code section 23612 (subsequent statutory citations are to this code unless otherwise indicated), which provides for testing of blood, breath, or urine.  He elected breath testing, which was conducted using an Intoximeter EC/IR.  Finally, defendant additionally consented to a blood test (…) We construed the revised version of section 23152(b)’s per se offense in Bransford, supra, 8 Cal.4th 885.  We reviewed the history of the bill and concluded that the Legislature intended to criminalize the act of driving with either the specified blood-alcohol level or the specified breath-alcohol level.  (Id., at pp. 888-891.)  Having determined that the amended statute alternatively “defined the substantive offense of driving with a specified concentration of alcohol in the body” (Bransford, supra, 8 Cal.4th at pp. 892-893), we also concluded that the amended statute rendered irrelevant consideration of matters such as partition ratio variability, because the revised statute “defined the offense without regard to such ratios.”  (Id., at p. 893.)  It followed, we held, that expert evidence concerning partition ratio variability was properly excluded in trials under the amended per se statute.  We observed in closing that the “defendants remained free to challenge the breath-test results on other, relevant grounds, including the reliability of the machine and the manner in which the test was administered.”  (Bransford, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 893.)  By the italicized phrase, we contemplated that a defendant may challenge whether the particular machine actually employed to collect and analyze his or her breath sample is unreliable because it was not calibrated or maintained consistently with applicable standards and regulations.  (E.g., Cal. Code Regs., tit. 17, § 1221.4, mentioned ante, fn. 4.) (…) We held in McNeal that whereas evidence of partition ratio variability remains irrelevant and inadmissible with regard to a per se charge of driving with a prohibited concentration of alcohol under section 23152(b), that same evidence is relevant and admissible to rebut the presumption underlying a generic charge of driving under the influence under section 23152(a) when the prosecution relies on the results of a breath machine test (McNeal, supra, at pp. 1196-1202; compare Bransford, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 885.) The trial court did not err in limiting Dr. Hlastala’s prehearing jury testimony and excluding his subsequently proposed elaborating testimony with respect to the statutory per se charge.  As the trial court observed, defendant remained free to argue, and present evidence, that the particular machines used in this case malfunctioned, or that they were improperly calibrated or employed.  But as explained earlier, the 0.08 percent breath-alcohol concentration formulated by the Legislature in enacting the underlying per se offense, section 23152(b), was adopted on the basis of correlation studies employing just such breath-testing machines — and the various physiological factors that affect the results of breath machines generally, have already been taken into account by those studies and the widely accepted statutory partition ratio.  We construe both the statute, section 23152(b), and the regulation on which defendant relies, California Code of Regulations, title 17, section 1219.3, as calling simply for a breath specimen consisting of the last portion of expired breath that is captured by an approved breath-testing machine that is properly calibrated and employed.  In light of these conclusions and the corresponding regulations and statutes discussed earlier, the fundamental reliability of federally approved, properly calibrated and employed breath-testing machines used in the application and enforcement of the per se statute is a matter that has been determined as policy by the Legislature — and a defendant’s expert witness may not invite a jury to nullify that determination in the manner at issue here.  Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed.  (Cal. S.Ct., 21.11.2013, P. v. Vangelder, S195423).

Circulation routière, conduite sous l’influence de l’alcool : cas d’un conducteur appréhendé par la police et suspecté d’être sous l’influence de l’alcool. Avant de risquer d’être en état d’arrestation, le conducteur peut consentir à un test d’haleine, qui se fait après que la police ait observé le comportement du conducteur pendant 15 minutes, le tout se déroulant sur la voie publique. Selon le résultat du test, l’officier de police prend sa décision s’agissant d’une arrestation. Un résultat positif du test sert de « cause raisonnable », nécessaire à une arrestation. Ce test se distingue de l’analyse chimique de l’haleine, du sang ou de l’urine. En l’espèce, le test fut positif, et le conducteur arrêté et conduit au poste de police pour une analyse chimique soit du sang, soit de l’urine, soit de l’haleine. La présente décision comprend une cinquantaine de pages et décrit en détail les méthodes scientifiques de mesure du taux d’alcool, leur admissibilité, et rappelle que le conducteur prévenu reste libre de contester les résultats du test d’haleine, en lui-même admissible, et reste libre de contester par exemple la fiabilité de la machine utilisée dans son cas ou la manière avec laquelle le test a été conduit dans son cas. Si l’accusation ne se base que sur les résultats de la machine à tester l’haleine, le conducteur prévenu peut en outre utiliser comme moyen de défense le fait que dans son cas, compte tenu de sa physiologie, le résultat du test est trop élevé (preuve de la « partition ratio variability »). Ce moyen de défense ne peut toutefois être utile que si l’acte d’accusation ne mentionne que l’infraction générique de conduite en état d’ébriété qui fait l’objet d’une disposition légale spécifique.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stanton v. Sims, docket 12-1217

Warrant: Fourth Amendment: enter a home without a warrant in case of hot pursuit following a possible misdemeanor: qualified immunity (“qualified immunity because no clearly established law put him on notice that his conduct was unconstitutional”):
(…) Nicholas Patrick crossed the street about 25 yards in front of Stanton’s car and ran or quickly walked toward a residence. Nothing in the record shows that Stanton (the police officer) knew at the time whether that residence belonged to Patrick or some­one else; in fact, it belonged to Drendolyn Sims.
Stanton did not see Patrick with a baseball bat, but he considered Patrick’s behavior suspicious and decided to detain him in order to investigate. Stanton exited his patrol car, called out “police,” and ordered Patrick to stop in a voice loud enough for all in the area to hear. But Patrick did not stop. Instead, he “looked directly at Stanton, ignored his lawful orders, and quickly went through the front gate” of a fence enclosing Sims’ front yard. When the gate closed behind Patrick, the fence—which was more than six feet tall and made of wood—blocked Stanton’s view of the yard. Stanton believed that Patrick had committed a jailable misdemeanor under California Penal Code §148 by disobeying his order to stop; Stanton also “feared for his safety.” He accordingly made the “split-second decision” to kick open the gate in pursuit of Patrick. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to Stanton, Sims herself was standing behind the gate when it flew open. The swinging gate struck Sims, cutting her forehead and injuring her shoulder. Sims filed suit against Stanton in Federal District Court under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983, alleging that Stanton unreasonably searched her home without a war­rant in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (…)  hot pursuit of a fleeing felon justifies an officer’s warrantless entry. (United States v. Santana, 427 U. S. 38, 42–43 (1976)); hot pur­suit exception: immediate or contin­uous pursuit of X. from the scene of a crime 466 U. S., at 753; “the doctrine of qualified immunity protects govern­ment officials ‘from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.’” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U. S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S. 800, 818 (1982)). “Qualified immunity gives government offi­cials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments,” and “protects ‘all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.’” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U. S. ___, ___ (2011) (slip op., at 12) (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U. S. 335, 341 (1986)). “We do not require a case directly on point” before concluding that the law is clearly established, “but existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question be­yond debate.” al-Kidd, 563 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 9). Federal and state courts nationwide are sharply di­vided on the question whether an officer with probable cause to arrest a suspect for a misdemeanor may enter a home without a warrant while in hot pursuit of that sus­pect; in California, the law is: in both People v. Lloyd, 216 Cal. App. 3d 1425, 1430, 265 Cal. Rptr. 422, 425 (1989), and In re Lavoyne M., 221 Cal. App. 3d 154, 159, 270 Cal. Rptr. 394, 396 (1990), the California Court of Appeal refused to limit the hot pursuit exception to felony suspects. The court stated in Lloyd: “where the pursuit into the home was based on an arrest set in motion in a public place, the fact that the offenses justifying the initial detention or arrest were misdemeanors is of no significance in determining the validity of the entry without a warrant.” 216 Cal. App. 3d, at 1430, 265 Cal. Rptr., at 425; we do not express any view on whether Officer Stan­ton’s entry into Sims’ yard in pursuit of Patrick was con­stitutional. But whether or not the constitutional rule applied by the court below was correct, it was not “beyond debate.” al-Kidd, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 9). Stanton may have been mistaken in believing his actions were justified, but he was not “plainly incompetent.” Malley, 475 U. S., at 341 (U.S.S.Ct., 04.11.2013, Stanton v. Sims, Per Curiam, docket 12-1217).

Warrant : Quatrième Amendement : cas d’un policier qui entre dans le périmètre d’un domicile sans warrant suite à une poursuite ininterrompue depuis la scène d’une infraction présumée (hot pursuit) (l’infraction étant un misdemeanor et non un felony) ; immunité qualifiée dont peut se prévaloir le policier (comme tout autre employé du secteur public) parce qu’aucune règle de droit clairement établie n’était susceptible de lui faire comprendre que son comportement était contraire à la Constitution fédérale :
Il est établi qu’une entrée sans warrant est admise en cas de hot pursuit portant sur un comportement pouvant être qualifié de felony. Mais qu’en est-il si l’infraction présumée ne peut être que qualifiée de misdemeanor ? Les cours d’appels fédérales et les cours des états sont divisées à ce sujet, d’où la présente décision de la Cour Suprême fédérale. En droit californien, il est établi qu’en cas de hot pursuit, l’officier de police n’a nul besoin d’un warrant pour entrer dans le périmètre d’un domicile, cela même si l’infraction n’est qu’un misdemeanor. Il faut toutefois l’existence d’une cause probable, comme dans tous les autres cas. Dans la présente affaire, la Cour ne se prononce pas sur la constitutionalité de la conduite de l’officier de police Stanton. Elle se limite à juger que l’on ne peut pas lui reprocher d’avoir méconnu une règle de droit clairement établie, justifiant de ne pas appliquer l’immunité dont il est question plus haut. En effet, il ne pouvait pas être clair pour le policier si l’infraction en jeu, qui relevait donc d’un misdemeanor et non pas d’un felony, lui permettait ou non d’entrer sans warrant. Pour le reste, le cas est renvoyé à l’autorité précédente pour nouvelle décision dans le sens des considérants. Il reste à voir si ultérieurement la Cour Suprême reprendra la conception californienne précitée.