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People v. Hoffman





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County, the Hon. Harold L. Jensen, Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial in the circuit court of Champaign County, defendant, Arthur Duane Hoffman, was convicted of unlawful use of weapons and aggravated assault. Holding that the circuit court erred in denying defendant's oral motion to suppress evidence, the appellate court reversed and remanded (81 Ill. App.3d 304), and we allowed the People's petition for leave to appeal. The facts are adequately stated in the appellate court opinion and will be repeated here only to the extent necessary to discuss the issues.

In the early morning hours of May 30, 1978, three employees of Richard's Food Store in Champaign were taking a meal break in the store's parking lot. They were approached by defendant, who brandished a small-caliber automatic pistol and threatened at least one of them. When the night manager emerged from the store, defendant put the gun away and ran. Police officers were dispatched to the scene and conducted a search but did not find defendant. An anonymous caller informed police that defendant could be found at 214 Paul Street in the Wilbur Heights area in Champaign. Defendant was not at that address; however, the police were directed to 306 Wilbur Heights Road. When they arrived there, they saw defendant standing in the middle of the street. Defendant ran, the police gave chase, and defendant was caught inside the house trailer in which his parents resided, located at 214 Paul Street.

Officer Paul Meeker of the Champaign police department testified that he remained outside the trailer while Champaign County Deputy Sheriff Morrison went inside. Morrison emerged with defendant in handcuffs a few minutes later. Officer Meeker accompanied defendant to the place where he was first seen, and defendant showed him where to find a .25-caliber automatic pistol.

At the conclusion of Officer Meeker's testimony, defendant's counsel orally moved to "suppress" his testimony and the pistol to which he was led by defendant for the reason that there was "no testimony to establish the defendant was ever advised of his Miranda rights." The circuit court held a suppression hearing at which the only witness called was Della Hoffman, defendant's mother. She testified that defendant arrived at her trailer on foot and that "five or six" police officers entered after him. Defendant was drunk. When asked what was said to her son by the officers who pursued him, Mrs. Hoffman said:

"Asked him where the gun was. Felt over him and he came in, he just kind of fell in a chair and his head against the wall and kind of leaned over the table with his arms hanging down * * *."

Concerning her participation in the questioning, she said: "I just, I told him if he knew, to tell them where it was at." Defendant's father also told him to tell the officers where the gun was. Mrs. Hoffman testified that she did not hear the police warn defendant either that he had a right to remain silent or a right to an attorney. At the conclusion of this testimony, defendant's trial counsel stated that Mrs. Hoffman's testimony was not what she had anticipated it would be and that there would be no argument made on the motion to suppress. Later, defendant's counsel moved to reopen the hearing in order to permit Mrs. Hoffman to testify that defendant was arrested while in the trailer. Both that motion and the motion to suppress were denied. The only evidence offered on behalf of defendant was the testimony of his sister that at the time the offense was committed defendant was drunk and riding with her in her car.

Initially, the People contend that "[t]he trial court does not have discretion to entertain a motion to suppress made during trial." In People v. Flatt (1980), 82 Ill.2d 250, 262, we addressed the question of when a motion to suppress evidence may be entertained by a trial court:

"At common law, a claim that evidence was obtained by means of an illegal search and seizure had to be raised before trial by means of a motion to suppress or to return the evidence. This requirement arose from a consideration of judicial economy; the court should not be required to interrupt a trial in order to determine the collateral issue of the manner in which the evidence was obtained. (People v. Braden (1966), 34 Ill.2d 516, 520; People v. Dalpe (1939), 371 Ill. 607, 611; People v. Drury (1929), 335 Ill. 539, 557; People v. Brocamp (1923), 307 Ill. 448, 454.) (See 23A C.J.S. Criminal Law sec. 1060, at 11 (1961).) By virtue of section 114-12(c) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 38, par. 114-12(c)), the common law rule was relaxed; the court may, in its discretion, conduct a hearing on a motion to suppress even though the motion is filed after trial has begun, providing that it is alleged that the evidence was illegally seized. Thus, the prohibition against filing a motion to suppress during trial has been relaxed so as not to prevail over the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures."

In our opinion it is also within the discretion of a trial court to entertain a motion to suppress evidence made after trial has begun based on a violation of the principles announced in Miranda v. Arizona (1966), 384 U.S. 436, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 86 S.Ct. 1602. As the Supreme Court said in Miranda:

"The warnings required and the waiver necessary in accordance with our opinion today are, in the absence of a fully effective equivalent, prerequisites to the admissibility of any statement made by a defendant." (384 U.S. 436, 476, 16 L.Ed.2d 694, 725, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 1629.)

To hold that the circuit court was without discretion to hear an untimely motion to suppress in these circumstances would jeopardize the integrity of the constitutional principles upon which Miranda rests. The circuit court did not abuse its discretion in hearing defendant's motion to suppress.

The People also contend that "[b]efore the People had an opportunity to present evidence in opposition to defendant's motion to suppress, defendant in effect withdrew his motion. This withdrawal should have precluded the Appellate Court from adjudicating ...

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