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People v. Conner

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 12, 1977.

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

v.

LENORA CONNER ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR V. ZELEZINSKI, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MCGLOON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendants Leon and Lenora Conner were each charged with possession of heroin in violation of section 402 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1402). Lenora was additionally charged with several other minor offenses not relevant on appeal. At the preliminary hearing, defendants made a single motion to suppress the evidence. The motion was granted because in executing the search warrant, the police officers failed to knock on any door or announce their presence and purpose.

The State now appeals from the ruling pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 604(a). On appeal, the State argues that the probability of heroin on the premises, coupled with the surrounding circumstances, created an exigency that obviated the requirement that the police officers announce their presence and purpose.

We affirm.

The facts are not disputed. On August 11, 1976, Officer Ernest Cain secured a search warrant commanding the search of Lenora Conner, also known as "Mama Conner," and the premises at 3648 South Martin Luther King Drive, Chicago, Illinois. To be seized were a quantity of heroin and narcotic paraphernalia.

Probable cause for the issuance of the warrant was based on information given by a reliable informant who purportedly observed a quantity of heroin on the premises and purchased a portion of it from Lenora Conner. The informant further stated that the heroin was stored in a washroom on the first floor.

At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Officer Cain testified that on August 12, 1977, at 7 a.m., he and 14 other police officers went to 3648 Martin Luther King Drive pursuant to the search warrant. He arrived at the scene on a Chicago Fire Department snorkel truck and entered the premises through a second floor window. Shortly thereafter, the arrests were made.

It is undisputed that when Officer Cain entered the premises, he did not knock, nor did he announce that he was a police officer in possession of a warrant to search the premises. At the hearing on the motion to suppress, Officer Cain explained that the fortress-like qualities of the premises necessitated executing the warrant in an unorthodox manner.

The house at 3648 South Martin Luther King Drive is a three-story, brick building with a basement. Officer Cain testified that the basement door is made of steel and equipped with a burglar gate and collapsible bars. The front door is made of solid wood and is also backed with burglar bars. The doors at the rear of the first, second and third floors are each equipped with burglar bars. Further, burglar bars are affixed to both the inside and outside of all windows. Officer Cain also stated that approximately 10 large dogs occupy the backyard and that other dogs occupy the basement.

In the last year and a half, police officers attempted to execute search warrants on the premises on six different occasions. On one of these occasions, entrance through the front door was impossible.

Consequently, at the hearing on the motion to suppress, the State argued that police officers may use all necessary and reasonable force to execute a search warrant and that the execution in this case was necessary and reasonable in light of the unusual facts. The trial court rejected this argument and ruled that the method of execution employed in this case would have been proper only if the police officers had knocked first on the door and then given notice by means of amplifier or loud speaker. The court reasoned that only if this procedure failed to produce any response from within, would the officers be justified in breaking through a window to gain entry.

From the order granting defendants' motion to suppress, the State appeals. The State argues that the police were justified in making an unannounced, forcible entry because easily disposable heroin was on the premises and the police were aware of preparations both to deter execution of the search warrant and to quickly dispose of the evidence.

• 1 We disagree. While the execution of the search warrant showed great ingenuity, it failed to satisfy constitutional requisites. Section 108-8 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 108-8) states that

"All necessary and reasonable force may be used to effect an entry into any building or property or part thereof ...


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