Sutter Judge Upheld
Sat, 01 Jul 2006
The state Supreme Court has upheld a decision by Sutter County Judge Chris Chandler in the case of a Yuba City man arrested in 2001 for methamphetamine offenses.
Chandler refused to suppress evidence against Bruce E. Brendlin and sentenced him to four years in prison.
Sutter County Assistant District Attorney Fred Schroeder said Friday that Brendlin was released long ago after serving about half the sentence.
Brendlin was a passenger in a car pulled over by a Sutter County Sheriff's Department Deputy Robert Brokenbrough, who was checking the validity of a registration permit taped to the back window.
According to court records, Brokenbrough suspected Brendlin was a wanted parolee and saw drug paraphernalia in the car. Brendlin remained in the car while Brokenbrough returned to his patrol car.
Brokenbrough asked for backup, then ordered Brendlin out of the car at gunpoint. Brendlin ended up pleading guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine but appealed to the 3rd District Court of Appeal on the grounds that the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
The appellate justices ruled in Brendlin's favor, saying that Brokenbrough stopped the car based only on a hunch and that Brendlin was improperly detained. The driver also was arrested on methamphetamine charges.
The Supreme Court overturned the appellate court decision on a 4-3 vote. Brokenbrough did not detain Brendlin based on the traffic stop but on the basis of his suspicion that Brendlin was a parolee at large, the justices ruled.
"When a peace officer directs the driver of a vehicle to pull over for a traffic stop but, in effecting the stop, gives no indication that the passenger of the vehicle is the focus of the officer's investigation or show of authority, is the passenger subjected to a 'seizure' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment? This is a question that has divided courts inside and outside this state," the Supreme Court said.