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People v. Pruitt

FEBRUARY 2, 1967.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

MORRIS RANDALL PRUITT, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ESTHER PRUITT, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Lee County; the Hon. JOHN DIXON, Judge, presiding. Affirmed in part, and reversed and remanded in part with directions.

MR. JUSTICE DAVIS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This appeal involves two cases — consolidated for trial — in which each defendant was indicted for the offense of the possession of burglary tools. (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 38, § 19-2.) The defendants moved to suppress the alleged burglary tools on the ground that they were discovered in an unlawful search of the personal effects of the defendant, Esther Pruitt, without her consent and without a search warrant, when neither defendant was under arrest; and that the arresting officers, at such time, had no reasonable grounds to believe that either defendant was committing or had committed an offense. The trial court, after hearing, found that the evidence failed to establish that the arresting officers had reasonable grounds to believe that an offense had been committed; that the arrests of the defendants were unlawful; that the searches were void; and ordered that such burglary tools be suppressed from being used as evidence against the defendants at the trial. The State appealed from this order.

Reverend George Curran, pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Dixon, and police officers Camery and Dusing testified at the hearing on behalf of the defendants. Each was cross-examined by the State, and officer Camery testified for the State. A fair appraisal of their testimony indicates that the police officers received a call at about 1:25 p.m., on Sunday, March 28, 1965, to come to St. Paul's Church right away. Upon arrival, the officers talked to Mrs. Stiles, the Church secretary, who told them that a theft had been committed at the morning service; that the bottom of a money bag had been cut and about $100 in bills had been taken; that when she returned to the Church after lunch, she saw somebody running in the hall and at the same time "saw a man in my locked office kneeling down at the safe . . ."; that the safe was open; that the two persons whom she had seen were then with Reverend Curran in the study. She also showed the mutilated money bag to the officers. Before calling the police, Mrs. Stiles had called Reverend Curran, who, along with his associate pastor, came immediately to the Church.

After the morning service the Church proper was locked, but the Tower door entrance to the Church remained unlocked and this entrance led to the hallway, the Church office, the study and certain other rooms.

The defendants, husband and wife, who had an infant child with them, and Reverend Curran were in the study for about five minutes before the police arrived.

Mr. Pruitt told Reverend Curran that he desired information concerning employment in the Dixon area.

The police, after talking with Mrs. Stiles, went to the study to question the defendants. They told the Pruitts that they considered them suspects of an offense and that they would have to come to the police station with them. Following this statement the Pruitts made no protest, either verbally or physically, until the officers later started to place handcuffs on Mr. Pruitt, and at that time they resisted, but went with the officers. The officers then asked the defendants about their present and prior addresses, and questioned Mr. Pruitt concerning his employment.

The officers also made a perfunctory search of the defendants which began by requesting each of them to produce an identification. Mr. Pruitt complied by giving the officers his billfold, which they searched. It established his identity, and the officers returned it to him. Mrs. Pruitt stated that she had no identification. One officer asked her what she had in her purse and she replied that she didn't like to have people going through her personal things. When the officer insisted on some identification, she pushed her purse toward him — a push which Reverend Curran characterized as reluctant — and upon examination of its contents, the officers found six items described as burglary tools. These searches were made without a search warrant. Under our decision, we need not decide whether Mrs. Pruitt consented to this search.

After the defendants were placed in jail, the officers searched the Pruitt car, which was parked near the Church, and found another homemade tool, described as a burglary tool, and a paper bag filled with coins. This search was likewise made without a warrant.

Reverend Curran, who did not remember whether he informed the defendants that he suspected them of some wrongdoing, did recall that the police officers asked the Pruitts to come with them after the contents of the purse had been laid upon the table. He stated that at such time one of the officers said, "This is evidence enough." It was also his recollection that Mrs. Pruitt carried the baby into the study; and Mr. Pruitt, the purse.

However, both police officers testified that upon entry into the Church study they informed the defendants that they were suspects of a crime and would have to come to the police station with them. This testimony was not refuted. The officers also testified that they arrested the Pruitts prior to searching Mrs. Pruitt's purse; and that they did so upon entering the Church study by making the aforesaid statement to the defendants.

This factual background presents for our determination the issues of whether the arresting officers, who had no warrants for the arrest or search of the defendants, had reasonable grounds to believe that the defendants had committed or were committing an offense as required by section 107-2(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 38, par 107-2(c)), and if so, had the officers effected an arrest of the defendants prior to or at the time they searched them as required by section 107-5(a) (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 38, par 107-5(a)); and were such searches proper under the provisions of section 108-1 of said Code (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 38, par 108-1), which provides:

"Search without Warrant] When a lawful arrest is effected a peace officer may reasonably search the person arrested and the area within such person's ...


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