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People v. Carlton

APRIL 15, 1965.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. HERBERT C. PASCHEN, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.


The defendant was tried by the court and found guilty of the illegal possession of narcotics. He was sentenced to a term of not less than five nor more than ten years. On appeal he argues that it was error to deny his motion to suppress the evidence of narcotics, as the arrest and search were illegal.

At about 9:30 p.m. on December 21, 1963, Chicago police officers Wayman Crigler and Lamont Knazze met a police informer in the lobby of the DuSable Hotel in Chicago. Crigler testified that the informer was reliable. Crigler had spoken with him ten or twelve times and based on his information, narcotics arrests had been made in the past. On this occasion the informer said "They are using stuff and selling it up in Cat Eye Bob's [the defendant's] room," and gave the officers the room number. After checking the room number with the desk clerk, the police officers went upstairs and stationed themselves outside the door of the room. Approximately two or three minutes later, the door was opened by a man named Candy and the officers looked in the room and observed a man known as Eddie Walker with a hypodermic needle and an eye dropper in his left hand.

The officers entered the room, placed the occupants under arrest, and recovered the hypodermic needle which Walker dropped to the floor. At that time the officers made a search of the occupants. A search of the defendant revealed a hypodermic needle in his shirt pocket and in his right-hand pants pocket a large tinfoil package which a field test revealed contained narcotics.

Under cross-examination Crigler testified that when they looked into the room the defendant Carlton was doing nothing; that they entered the room to arrest Walker who was committing an offense; and that "After we established the fact that Mr. Carlton was the lessee of the room, we placed him under arrest." Crigler testified that after arresting Walker, they searched Carlton and then searched the room. On cross-examination Officer Knazze testified that neither he nor his partner knocked at the door; that they did not have a search warrant; that they did not announce they were police officers before entering the room. The defendant did not give his permission for them to enter the room.

Defendant testified in his own behalf that on the evening of December 21, 1963, he was at home in his room at the DuSable Hotel in Chicago. There were five other men with him. They had spent about two and one-half to three hours there drinking wine, laughing and talking. Defendant had been living in the room, No. 421, for only ten days, having moved there from Room 718, where he had lived for two months. Defendant's room, No. 421, had been previously occupied by one Shannon, a dealer in narcotics. The visitors to defendant's room were looking for Shannon because they had money to buy narcotics from him. Shannon had not been in defendant's room since defendant moved in there, except on one occasion when Officer Knazze was also there. One of the visitors, Ronald Freeman, known as "Candy," rose to leave because "the guy don't live here anymore. . . ." He opened the door to leave and as he did so, Officers Knazze and Crigler stopped him and entered the room.

Defendant further testified that as Freeman opened the door to leave, Officer Knazze stopped him and forced him back into the room. At that time no one had a hypodermic needle in his hand and none was in sight. Officer Knazze said, "Well, well, what is going on in here, we got a crowd tonight." He looked around the room and under the chairs. He found a hypodermic needle under the chair where Walker was sitting. Officer Crigler called the defendant over to him and asked what he had. On being told "nothing," Crigler felt defendant's pockets. He asked for the defendant's money, and defendant produced about $1.50 in change. The officer also recovered a tinfoil package which he opened. Walker and Carlton were taken to the police station. Carlton did not give permission for a search of his person. He first knew he was charged with unlawful possession of narcotic drugs the following day.

Defendant maintained throughout the trial that the substance in the tinfoil package was a mixture of "Dormin" and "Bonita," neither of which is a narcotic; that it was for a friend who wanted it for his wife. Sergeant Charles Vondrack of the Chicago Police Crime Detective Laboratory identified the substance as a narcotic derivative. In rebuttal for impeachment purposes only, the state introduced the August 22, 1957 conviction of defendant for unlawful sale of narcotics, at which time he was sentenced to a term of not less than two years nor more than four years.

Defendant argues initially that there was no legal arrest and as a consequence there could be no search pursuant to an arrest, admittedly the only basis upon which a search would be lawful. An arrest without a warrant is lawful if a criminal offense has in fact been committed and the arresting officer has reasonable grounds for believing the person to be arrested committed it. People v. Boozer, 12 Ill.2d 184, 145 N.E.2d 619. There is no clear rule for determining what are "reasonable grounds," but it has been held that they exist if the facts and circumstances known to the officer would warrant a prudent and cautious man in believing that the person arrested was guilty of an offense. People v. Bennie Jones, 31 Ill.2d 42, 198 N.E.2d 821.

[2-4] Probable cause for arrest existed in the instant case because of the informer's information and because of what the officers saw when they looked into the open hotel room. Reasonable grounds for believing a person has committed a criminal offense may be found in information furnished by an informer if the reliability of the informer has been previously established or independently corroborated. People v. Durr, 28 Ill.2d 308, 192 N.E.2d 379; People v. Beattie, 31 Ill.2d 257, 201 N.E.2d 396. The informer need not be brought to trial to testify and the state need not disclose his name when his testimony would be irrelevant on the question of guilt. People v. Durr, supra. In the instant case Officer Crigler testified he had known the informer for over a year and had had ten or twelve previous conversations with him concerning narcotics activities and that he had made arrests as a result. The reliability of the informer was not challenged on cross-examination.

In addition, the officers observed an offense being committed when the apartment door was opened. They testified they saw Walker, a guest, with a hypodermic needle and an eye dropper in his hand. Defendant admitted that the door was opened by "Candy," and that the officers then entered. Defendant said however that Walker did not have a needle in his hand. Officer Crigler testified that Walker threw the needle to the floor. Significantly, the defendant acknowledged that a hypodermic needle was recovered from under the chair where Walker was sitting. The trial judge with full opportunity to determine the credibility of the witnesses resolved this factual issue against the defendant.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently upheld the denial of a motion to suppress in People v. Phillips, 30 Ill.2d 158, 195 N.E.2d 717, a case strikingly similar to the instant case. In the Phillips case an informer told a police officer he had purchased narcotics from the defendant in the defendant's apartment, and arrangements were made for a controlled sale that afternoon. After the controlled sale the officer went to the address involved, spoke to the janitor, and proceeded to the defendant's apartment with two other officers. After a knock on the door the door was opened and the officer showed the defendant his badge. At the same time the defendant dropped his cigarette package on the floor. The officer looked in the room, saw two people lying on the bed, one of whom threw a needle and syringe on the floor. The officer went in, picked up the needle and syringe and his partner picked up the cigarette package which contained four tin-foil packages containing heroin. The defendant at the door attempted to suppress the heroin. The court held the search was lawful, saying, (p 160):

"The testimony of the police officer was that there was no entry into the defendant's apartment until after the officer had seen the hypodermic needle and syringe. Possession of those articles, except by physicians and other designated persons, is prohibited by statute. (Ill Rev Stats, 1961, c 38, par 22-50.) Apart from anything that had theretofore occurred, the officer had personal knowledge that an offense was being committed in his presence at the time that ...

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