A driver who was arrested for drugs and a gun found in his car after he was pulled over in Vallejo for improperly signaling a turn has won his bid to have the traffic stop — and thus the seized contraband — declared invalid.
The ruling Monday by California’s First District appeals court directs the trial court to grant a motion that the seized items cannot be presented as evidence and to allow Andrew Holiman to withdraw his no-contest plea.
At issue was whether the police officer could reasonably believe that Holiman broke the law in failing to signal for 100 feet before making the turn. The court ruled that she could not, because there were no drivers in the area who could have been affected by his failure to signal.
Holiman, who was then 25, was arrested on the afternoon of June 19, 2017, by a Vallejo police officer who had been following him for about five minutes. She said she had noticed him when he passed her going in the other direction and gave her what she described as “a furtive glance.”
She made a U-turn and began following him. After two blocks, Holiman came to a T-intersection. He stopped at the stop sign, put on his blinker and made a right turn. The officer followed him for almost a mile, then pulled him over at a gas station. The reason given was that he had failed to signal for 100 feet before making the turn.
Holiman disclosed that he was on parole for armed robbery, conditions of which required him to allow search of his car. The officer found marijuana, methamphetamine and a loaded semiautomatic handgun.
Initially charged with five crimes, Holiman pleaded no contest to two drug charges and admitted the prior strike allegation. He was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison.
He then challenged the validity of the warrantless search, saying the traffic stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion he had committed a crime.
The appellate court agreed with him, declaring that “the requirement of signaling continuously for 100 feet before a turn … applies only if another driver would be affected by the vehicle’s movement.” The only other driver in the area was the officer who was tailing him — and because she was behind him on a narrow road, there was no way her car could have been affected by the direction of his turn, the ruling said.
Holiman, who is Black, also contended that the officer engaged in racial profiling by stopping him rather than any of the “many other motorists [who] in plain view committed traffic infractions” while she was following him. Because the court agreed with his first point, concerning whether he had violated the Vehicle Code, it did not address the profiling claim.
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