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State v. Oneal

March 11, 1997

STATE OF WASHINGTON, RESPONDENT,
v.
PEGGY DONZELLA ONEAL, APPELLANT.



Appeal from Superior Court of Spokane County. Docket No: 95-1-00072-1. Date filed: 07/07/95. Judge signing: Hon. Robert Austin.

Authored by Dennis J. Sweeney. Concurring: Philip J. Thompson, Stephen M. Brown.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweeney

SWEENEY, C.J. Peggy Donzella Oneal was a passenger in a parked car in the city of Spokane. The car pulled away from a curb and entered the traveled portion of the roadway. A police officer stopped the car for not signaling. After the officer asked Ms. Oneal to step from the car, he saw Ms. Oneal drop rocks of crack cocaine on the ground. The officer arrested Ms. Oneal for an outstanding warrant and for possession of a controlled substance.

The State charged Ms. Oneal with possession of a controlled substance, crack cocaine. Her motion to suppress was denied. On a stipulated record, the court found Ms. Oneal guilty of possession of a controlled substance, cocaine. She appeals.

Discussion

The sole issue here is whether the officer appropriately stopped the car in which Ms. Oneal was a passenger. She claims that the law does not require a car pulling away from the curb to signal.

The stop of an automobile is a seizure of its occupants and must therefore be reasonable. State v. Tijerina, 61 Wash. App. 626, 628, 811 P.2d 241, review denied, 118 Wash. 2d 1007, 822 P.2d 289 (1991). A stop is reasonable if a reasonable officer would have made the stop in the absence of an improper purpose. State v. Chapin, 75 Wash. App. 460, 468, 879 P.2d 300 (1994), review denied, 125 Wash. 2d 1024 (1995). We focus not on the arresting officer's subjective motivation, but rather the objective reasonableness of the officer's conduct. State v. Blumenthal, 78 Wash. App. 82, 86, 895 P.2d 430 (1995); Chapin, 75 Wash. App. at 468. We determine the reasonableness of the officer's actions by the circumstances surrounding the stop, including whether the officer was following standard procedures or routine practices in effecting a stop. Blumenthal, 78 Wash. App. at 86-87; Chapin, 75 Wash. App. at 468. Normally, the officer's testimony will suffice to establish the practices and procedures of the police agency in question. Chapin, 75 Wash. App. at 468 n.16.

The officer testified that while he had not made many stops for the infraction, he believed a city ordinance required signaling. And he had made stops in the past for not signaling while pulling away from a curb.

Section 16.61.305 of the Spokane Municipal Code provides in part:

(1) No person shall turn a vehicle, or move right or left upon a roadway, unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.

(2) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left, when required, shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning. Arguably, the ordinance requires a parked car leaving a curb to signal. The officer's actions therefore are not unreasonable. See Blumenthal, 78 Wash. App. at 87 (absence of record to show departure from normal practices or procedures allows for Conclusion that stop was objectively reasonable). Ms. Oneal argues that the statute places an undue burden on a driver and misstates the ordinance's purpose. But neither of these arguments address the central question here which is whether the officer's belief that the ordinance was violated was reasonable. Blumenthal, 78 Wash. App. at 86. It was.

We affirm.

A majority of the panel has determined that this opinion will not be printed in the Washington Appellate Reports but it will be filed for ...


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