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People v. Rogers





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Jackson County; the Hon. RICHARD E. RICHMAN, Judge, presiding.


Defendants, Ronald S. Rogers and Christopher Bell, were charged by information with unlawful possession of cocaine in violation of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1100 et seq.). Defendants moved to suppress the evidence seized at the time of their arrest. Following an evidentiary hearing, the Circuit Court of Jackson County granted defendants' motions. The State appeals.

The evidence at the hearing consisted solely of the uncontradicted testimony of the two arresting officers, Daniel Dunn and Duke Pennell. At 10 p.m. on April 29, 1978, Officers Dunn and Pennell of the Elkville police department were on routine patrol in a marked squad car. Officer Dunn observed an unfamiliar vehicle legally parked on South First Street, a dead-end street on which two house trailers were located. One trailer was the residence of Officer Pennell; the other was unoccupied. Pennell knew that his wife was at work and that no one was supposed to be at home. Both officers were aware of past trouble in the area which had centered around the unoccupied trailer.

Officer Dunn then turned his squad car around and approached the unfamiliar vehicle head-on on South First Street. The motor of the parked car was running and its headlights had been suddenly turned on. At this time, the officers thought that they might be interrupting a burglary or "someone who did not belong there." As the squad car approached the vehicle, the officers could see defendant Rogers in the front passenger seat bending forward with his shoulders moving. Although the officers could not see Rogers' hands, they believed he was using his arms and hands on the floor of the vehicle.

After Dunn stopped the squad car, the two officers advanced towards the car which had the windows open on both sides. Dunn first spoke to Rogers, the front seat passenger, and shined his flashlight into the automobile. At this time, defendant Bell was in the driver's seat and a Mr. Cullinane was in the rear seat. As Dunn bent over and looked into the car, he asked Rogers what they were doing. Rogers replied that they were drinking some beer. After Dunn noticed that there was no beer in the car, he asked the men for identification. Cullinane, who appeared nervous, and Rogers got out of the car and produced traffic citations as identification.

Officer Pennell asked Bell, the driver, for identification and asked him to get out of the car as well. Pennell testified that this was standard procedure when checking suspicious circumstances. Bell gave Pennell his driver's license but remained in the vehicle.

After having examined the identification, Officer Dunn was still curious about Rogers bending over in the front seat when the officers first arrived on the scene. Dunn looked through the windshield using his flashlight and observed that the floormat on the front passenger's side was in disarray and not lying flat on the floor. He believed that this was what Rogers had been "messing with" earlier. Dunn testified that he had no "real" reason to believe that any offense was being committed but was nevertheless suspicious that something was wrong. Bell then unexpectedly reached over and flipped up the floormat exposing a hand rolled cigarette and a small packet wrapped in newspaper. Dunn reached inside the car and picked up the package stating "my, my what do we have here?" After Rogers said that it was cocaine, the three men were placed under arrest.

Officer Pennell testified that he had seen packets similar to the one seized by Officer Dunn while in the armed forces police unit in the Philippines. He stated that it was common knowledge that this type of packaging was routinely used for most powder forms of hard drugs.

Officer Dunn testified that he had not intended to lift the floormat himself and look under it nor had he intended to arrest the men prior to the time cocaine was discovered. He added that none of defendants had argued with, fought or cursed the officers prior to their arrest.

In ordering the suppression of the evidence, the court found that the temporary questioning by the officers of defendants sitting in a parked vehicle on a dead end street near a vacant mobile home and the residence of one of the arresting officers was authorized under section 107-14 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 107-14) which provides for such questioning. The court, however, found that "any further action was unauthorized in view of the fact that the officers did not intend to arrest any of the occupants of the vehicle at that time nor did they have any facts on which to base an arrest." The court added that the evidence should be suppressed because it was obtained after the police had obtained the names and identifications of defendants as well as an explanation of the parties' purpose for being in the location.

On appeal, the State argues that the "stopping" of defendants was authorized under section 107-14 of the Criminal Code; that it was proper for the officers to detain and question defendants after checking identification and hearing an explanation of what they were doing because defendants admitted violating a statute regulating transportation of alcoholic beverages (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-502) and because that explanation was patently false; and that as the officers were reasonably justified in being present at the scene, it was proper for them to seize the cocaine after it was exposed in plain view by defendant Bell.

• 1 On a motion to suppress physical evidence, the burden of proving that the search and seizure were unlawful is on the defendant. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 114-12(b); People v. Wright, 42 Ill.2d 457, 248 N.E.2d 78 (1969).) On review, the decision of the trial court will not be disturbed unless it is "manifestly erroneous." People v. Williams, 57 Ill.2d 239, 311 N.E.2d 681 (1974), cert. denied, 419 U.S. 1026, 42 L.Ed.2d 302, 95 S.Ct. 506 (1974).

• 2 Under section 107-14, a police 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 * * * and may demand the name and address of the person and an explanation of his actions." To justify a stop, the officer must point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, make the intrusion reasonable. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 88 S.Ct. 1868 (1968).

• 3 In the present case, it is clear that the officers were justified in making the initial stop under section 107-14. The officers observed defendants' automobile parked suspiciously on a dead-end street in a rather isolated area near the residence of Officer Pennell and a vacant mobile home late in the evening. As there apparently had been problems in the area centering around the vacant home, the officers had reason to suspect that they might be interrupting a burglary. From the factual circumstances presented, the officers could reasonably infer that defendants were committing or about to ...

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