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People v. Crawford

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 19, 1978.

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

v.

THOMAS CRAWFORD ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. JOHN L. HUGHES, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE GUILD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied November 20, 1978.

This appeal is a consolidation of three causes brought against the defendants herein. In cause No. 77 CF 134 defendants Metzer and Crawford were indicted for the armed robbery of one George Colburn on March 12, 1977; for the armed robbery of Walter E. Suman on March 12, 1977; and for aggravated battery committed upon Colburn by striking him with a shotgun. In cause No. 77 CF 147 an information was filed against Metzer charging him with possession of a sawed-off shotgun, possession of cannabis, possession of a switchblade knife and carrying a concealed weapon. In cause No. 77 CF 148 defendant Keto was charged by information with the armed robbery of Colburn, the armed robbery of Suman and aggravated battery as to Colburn. Motions were respectively made (1) to suppress "in court" identification at trial by the victims; (2) to suppress confessions by Crawford and Metzer; and (3) to suppress physical evidence, viz., the sawed off shotgun, pistol, the switchblade knife and the more than 30 grams of cannabis seized from the car of the defendants on the morning of March 12, 1977.

All charges are still pending in the circuit court of Lake County. It would also appear that the motions to suppress the "in court" identifications and the confessions are also still undisposed of in the trial court. The State's Attorney of Lake County has appealed from the order of the trial court suppressing the "evidence." It would appear, and the parties have indicated, that these orders refer to the physical evidence only.

The sole issue presented herein is whether the trial court properly suppressed the evidence seized from the defendants' car at approximately 5 a.m. on March 12, 1977.

The only witness to testify at the hearing on the motion to suppress the physical evidence was John Angelos, a Waukegan police officer, who, on March 12, 1977, was on routine patrol in an unmarked squad car. At 5 a.m. on that day he was driving toward the lakefront area of Waukegan. There had been numerous reports of vandalism at concession stands along the beach there. As he was driving by an area called North Beach he noticed in his rearview mirror defendants' car turn on its lights and drive away from the beach. The officer had not noticed the car previously because it had not had its lights on until he passed by. The car had been parked in a parking area adjacent to a concession stand, approximately 5 feet from the beach itself and approximately 10 feet from the concession stand. The officer turned his own vehicle and followed defendants' car as it drove away from the beach. Angelos testified that he did so because the car was parked "where it should not have been" as a Waukegan City Ordinance prohibited being in the beach area between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. He further testified that signs to that effect were prominently displayed in the parking area.

Officer Angelos caught up with defendants' auto and continued to follow it for a few blocks. He observed at least three subjects in the front seat who kept turning and looking at him in what the officer felt was a furtive manner. Approximately 1-2 1/2 miles from the beach Angelos turned on his light and pulled defendants' car to the curb.

After both cars had stopped, Angelos approached defendants' vehicle, identified himself, and asked defendant Metzer for his driver's license. Metzer produced a Minnesota driver's license and stated that he had been living in Illinois for three to four months. Angelos then advised Metzer that his license was not valid because of the length of time he had been in Illinois and that he was under arrest for driving without a valid license. As Angelos opened the front door of the car for Metzer to get out, Metzer told the officer that he was a paraplegic and could not leave the car without assistance. When the door was open Angelos observed an empty holster by Metzer's feet. Angelos then requested the two front-seat passengers to step out of the car and conducted a frisk search. Another officer then arrived and conducted a frisk of Metzer and a cursory search of the vehicle's interior. Various weapons and a quantity of cannabis were found on the defendants and in the car.

The answer to the question of whether the trial court correctly ruled that these items were products of an illegal search is dependent upon whether the officer had a right to stop the car and ask for Metzer's license. His actions after this request were entirely proper. Officer Angelos had a right to arrest Metzer for not having a valid license. Once having done so he had a right to ask Metzer to leave the car and to look in the car when Metzer was unable to leave. The empty holster in plain view when the door was open was grounds to search both the occupants and the car itself.

Officer Angelos' request for Metzer's license was part of what has been called an investigatory field stop. Such stops are controlled by section 107-14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 107-14), which provides as follows:

"Temporary Questioning without Arrest.) A peace officer, after having identified himself as a peace officer, may stop any person in a public place for a reasonable period of time when the officer reasonably infers from the circumstances that the person is committing, is about to commit or has committed an offense as defined in Section 102-15 of this Code, and may demand the name and address of the person and an explanation of his actions. Such detention and temporary questioning will be conducted in the vicinity of where the person was stopped."

The above statute is a partial codification of the holdings of Terry v. Ohio (1968), 392 U.S. 1, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 88 S.Ct. 1868, and Sibron v. New York (1968), 392 U.S. 40, 20 L.Ed.2d 917, 88 S.Ct. 1889. (See People v. Lee (1971), 48 Ill.2d 272, 269 N.E.2d 488, and analysis therein.) Those cases require that the stop itself must be justified by "specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant that intrusion." Terry v. Ohio (1968), 392 U.S. 1, 21, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 906, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 1880.

The validity of all searches, even limited ones such as in this case, must be determined from the particular facts and circumstances of each case. In making this determination an objective standard is to be applied. Mere subjective suspicion or hunch is not enough. The key question is whether the facts available to the officer at the moment of the stop warrant a man of reasonable caution to believe that the action taken was appropriate. People v. Hellemeyer (1975), 28 Ill. App.3d 491, 328 N.E.2d 626.

• 1 In the instant case there were sufficient "specific and articulable facts" to justify the stop of defendants' car by a reasonable person. The car was observed by the concession stand in the beach area at 5 a.m. This was not merely an unusual place for the defendants to be, their presence was in violation of a Waukegan ordinance. Thus, as the officer testified, defendants' car was "where it should not have been." There had been previous reports of vandalism at concession stands. Finally, there is the officer's comment that the occupants of the car had glanced back at him in a furtive manner as he followed them and that from this he concluded "that something may be up." (In this connection, see Annot., 45 A.L.R.3d 581 (1972).) An officer investigating possible criminal ...


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