September 17, 2014

Colorado Supreme Court: Totality of Circumstances Supported Probable Cause for Arrest of Defendant as Vehicle Driver

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Castaneda on February 7, 2011.

Suppression of Evidence—Probable Cause for Arrest—Search Incident to Arrest—Totality of the Circumstances.

Christina Maria Castaneda was charged with possession of a schedule II substance found during a search of her vehicle following her arrest for driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident. When Castaneda was found with the car on the side of Interstate 25, she reported to the state trooper that she had not driven the car involved in the accident. Instead, she claimed that a six-foot tall woman named “Jowanna” had been driving.

The trial court ruled that the police did not have probable cause to arrest Castaneda because the facts did not support a conclusion that she had been driving the vehicle. The Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the suppression order. The Court held that the totality of the circumstances known to the officerCastaneda’s presence as the only person with the vehicle, matching license plates, alcohol on her breath, and the seat pulled too far forward to accommodate a six-foot tall driversupported probable cause for the arrest of Castaneda as the driver.

Summary and full case available here.

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