Court of Appeal:
12-Minute Detention Following Traffic Stop Was Excessive
Majority: Questioning Unrelated to Traffic Offense, Dog-Sniffing Prolonged Encounter, So Fruits of Search Must Be
Suppressed; Dissent: Totality of Circumstances Triggered Officers’ Concerns, Justifying Delay
By a MetNews Staff Writer
—Anaheim Police Department
McGlade is seen with his then-partner in police service, Titan.
Div. Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, in a 2-1 opinion, has reversed a man’s misdemeanor convictions for possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia because, after he was stopped for a traffic offense, 12 minutes elapsed before a drug-sniffing dog circled the suspect’s vehicle, detecting the presence of narcotics.
“The police are not foreclosed from performing unrelated investigative efforts like dog sniffs during a traffic stop but must not prolong the detention when they do,” Justice Joanne Motoike said in Friday’s majority opinion, proceeding to declare that the length of the detention of appellant Joseph Gyorgy was excessive.
“Because the prolonged stop was unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, the trial court erred by denying the motion to suppress,” she wrote.
Joining in her opinion was Justice Thomas M. Goethals. Acting Presiding Justice Eileen C. Moore dissented, noting complexities in the circumstances and that that Gyorgy’s own conduct contributed to the delay.
The arrest of Gyorgy took place on March 16, 2018. Then-Officer Anthony V. McGlade of the Anaheim Police Department, assigned to the narcotics unit, was alerted by an undercover officer that a man was leaving the Tampico Motel, known to be a center for drug trafficking, and that the “vehicle had acted suspiciously.”
McGlade, accompanied by his partner, Titan—a certified narcotics detection police dog—got behind the vehicle, a truck. Gyorgy made an abrupt lane change, causing another motorist to hit the brakes.
The officer stopped Gyorgy for the traffic violation and, in questioning him, learned that he is an ex-convict and a registered sex offender. His responses were evasive and he launched into a rambling and irrelevant discourse.
Titan, a German shepherd dog, sniffed the exterior of the truck and “alerted”—that is, signaled that he detected the presence of narcotics in the interior of the vehicle. A search substantiated the accuracy of his assessment.
McGlade and Officer John Pasqualucci found methamphetamine, a glass pipe with residue evidencing its use in smoking methamphetamine, a handgun, an empty magazine, and ammunition.
Although Gyorgy was convicted on the misdemeanor charges, there was a hung jury on the felony charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a felon in possession of ammunition. Felonies having been charged, the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction, under a court rule, of the appeal from the misdemeanor convictions.
In finding that the fruits of the search should have been suppressed, Motoike cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 opinion in Rodriguez v. United States. She pointed out that the high court “found a dog sniff unlawfully prolonged a traffic stop where it was conducted after the officer had issued a written warning for the traffic violation.”
Motoike noted that under Rodriguez, whether the sniffing occurs before or after a citation is issued “is not the deciding factor” because the opinion says that “[t]he critical question...is...whether conducting the sniff ‘prolongs’—i.e., adds time to—‘the stop’.”
In dealing with Gyorgy, she said, “the officers detoured from the traffic stop’s mission by conducting the dog sniff and inquiring into matters unrelated to the traffic violation,” such as his criminal history.
“McGlade obtained Gyorgy’s driver’s license at the beginning of the stop, but the record does not show he did anything after that to investigate the traffic infraction. Instead, he spent most of the 11 minutes, 54 seconds of the detention (prior to the dog alert) performing tasks unrelated to the traffic stop mission. Examining the totality of the circumstances, we conclude the police were not reasonably diligent in completing the traffic stop’s mission.”
Responding to a contention by the Office of Attorney General, Motoike said that the facts are “insufficient to create a reasonable suspicion Gyorgy was ‘involved with drugs,’ ” setting forth:
“Gyorgy’s presence at the Tampico Motel, without more, did not raise a reasonable suspicion he was engaged in criminal activity.”
She acknowledged in a footnote that “[o]nce the trained narcotics dog Titan alerted to the presence of illegal drugs in Gyorgy’s pickup truck, Officer McGlade then had probable cause to search the vehicle.”
Moore said in her dissent:
“The totality of the circumstances in this case included: Officer McGlade’s knowledge of drug trafficking at the Tampico Motel; the information from an undercover police officer that a black pickup truck had been acting suspiciously and had just left the Tampico Motel; the seemingly evasive and illegal driving maneuver by the pickup truck when McGlade positioned his marked police vehicle directly behind the truck; the information from Gyorgy that he had prior felony arrests; the information from Gyorgy that he was a registered sex offender, purportedly registered in a neighboring county; McGlade’s knowledge that a registered sex offender ordinarily has an obligation to register with the local police department within five days of moving into a different county from where they are currently registered (see Pen. Code, § 290 et seq.); and Gyorgy’s convoluted answer in response to McGlade’s direct question about where he was currently living. Under any reasonable interpretation of the developing facts, this was no longer a routine traffic stop restricted by the time necessary for McGlade to write a traffic ticket….”
The dissenter added:
“As two superior court judges found, I would hold this 12-minute traffic stop (a seizure) was not unreasonably long under the Fourth Amendment.
“Indeed, some of this 12-minute seizure was due to Gyorgy’s verbosity, as well as the time it took to allow Gyorgy to remove his small dog from the truck when he objected to Officer McGlade doing so.”
The case is People v. Gyorgy, 2023 S.O.S. 2514.
Titan retired on Aug. 25, 2020. At a session of the Anaheim City Council that day, the city lawmakers, by a vote of 7-0, approved the transfer of Titan to McGlade for $4,000.
Then-Councilmember Denise Barnes congratulated McGlade on his promotion to sergeant and termed the transaction, “absolutely a wonder,” and a “win-win” situation,
An Anaheim Police Department Facebook posting says:
“After serving Anaheim for 3 years, Titan is enjoying retirement at home, eating peanut butter, lying on the couch, & watching animal planet.”
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