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People v. Jones





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. JAMES A. KNECHT, Judge, presiding.


The State appeals the trial court's order suppressing evidence that had been seized as a result of two searches of the defendant's car. Besides the merits of that order this appeal also raises a jurisdictional question regarding the steps taken by the State to present this issue here for review.


People v. Young (1980), 82 Ill.2d 234, 412 N.E.2d 501, requires that the State, as a prerequisite to taking an interlocutory appeal of an order suppressing evidence, certify to the trial court that the suppression will substantially impair prosecution of the defendant. Several months after filing its notice of appeal the State moved in this court to supplement the record with a certificate of impairment signed by the McLean County state's attorney. The defendant objected to this motion, arguing that the certificate is jurisdictional and must be entered in the trial court record before a notice of appeal is filed. We ordered that the question be taken with the case.

Young involved reports made to police by a person who had been in an auto accident. The defendant, charged with leaving the scene of an accident and driving too fast for conditions, sought to suppress his statements under section 11-401(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-401(b)), which requires drivers who have had an accident involving personal injury or death to report certain details to the police; the last sentence of (b) prohibits the use of these reports in prosecutions for leaving the scene. The trial court granted the defendant's pretrial motion to suppress. The appellate court dismissed the State's appeal, concluding that Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (73 Ill.2d R. 604(a)(1)) permits appeals only from evidence derived from illegal searches and seizures and involuntary confessions. The supreme court framed the question in the following way:

"The issue before us is whether our Rule 604(a)(1) (73 Ill.2d R. 604(a)(1)) permits the State to appeal from a pretrial order excluding evidence on grounds other than that the evidence was obtained as the result of an unlawful search and seizure or an involuntary confession." (82 Ill.2d 234, 236, 412 N.E.2d 501, 502.)

The short answer to this question is "yes." First the court observed that "[t]he extent of the State's ability to take an appeal in criminal cases has expanded dramatically in the last 50 years" (82 Ill.2d 234, 238, 412 N.E.2d 501, 503) and summarized the expansion in the sorts of cases that the State may appeal and the development of the court's rulemaking authority. Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) lists the types of adverse rulings that the State may appeal:

"In criminal cases the State may appeal only from an order or judgment the substantive effect of which results in dismissing a charge for any of the grounds enumerated in section 114-1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963; arresting judgment because of a defective indictment, information or complaint; quashing an arrest or search warrant; or suppressing evidence." (73 Ill.2d R. 604(a)(1).)

Young held "that Rule 604(a)(1) allows an interlocutory appeal by the State of a pretrial suppression order whenever the prosecutor certifies to the trial court that the suppression substantially impairs the State's ability to prosecute the case." (82 Ill.2d 234, 247, 412 N.E.2d 501, 507.) This requirement was "effective immediately" except for cases already on appeal. 82 Ill.2d 234, 248-49, 412 N.E.2d 501, 508.

The State first argues that it need not certify substantial impairment when the trial court decides to suppress the evidence because it was obtained through an involuntary confession or an unlawful search or seizure — that is, in those cases that the State has traditionally been allowed to appeal. The State would limit the certification requirement to cases when the evidence has been suppressed for other, nontraditional reasons, such as that involved in Young.

Young does not make this distinction, however. Young first describes how the appellate court has erroneously limited the cases appealable by the State under Supreme Court Rule 604 and then discusses the policy reasons supporting the broader view of which suppression orders are properly appealable. Both parts of the opinion indicate that the court is correcting a misunderstanding and not creating a new rule applicable only to newly permitted appeals. On its face, Rule 604(a)(1) allows appeals from all orders barring the use of evidence, but the decisional law has not accepted this view; appellate court opinions have limited appeals by the State to cases when (1) the reason for suppression is to deter police misconduct, (2) the order will "block" the prosecution, (3) the order is based on constitutional reasons, or (4) the evidence was obtained by an illegal search or seizure or an involuntary confession (82 Ill.2d 234, 240, 412 N.E.2d 501, 504). People v. Van De Rostyne (1976), 63 Ill.2d 364, 349 N.E.2d 16, provided the impetus for the fourth approach. In Van De Rostyne the trial court granted the defendant's "motion to suppress" the results of a breathalyzer test during a trial for driving while intoxicated. Young explained that in dictum there the court had said that the label "`motion to suppress' * * * was intended only to reach illegally obtained evidence and that Rule 604 should not be interpreted to allow an interlocutory appeal from every ruling excluding evidence offered by the prosecution." (82 Ill.2d 234, 241, 412 N.E.2d 501, 504.) Some appellate opinions used Van De Rostyne to limit orders appealable by the State to those suppressing evidence derived from illegal searches and seizures and involuntary confessions, although not all cases interpreted that decision so narrowly.

Van De Rostyne relied in part on People v. Thady (1971), 133 Ill. App.2d 795, 270 N.E.2d 861, which underestimated the supreme court's rulemaking powers. Thady limited Rule 604(a)(1) to matters made appealable by the legislature, specifically sections 114-11 and 114-12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963, dealing with involuntary confessions and illegal searches and seizures respectively (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, pars. 114-11, 114-12). See also the discussion of Thady in People v. Flatt (1980), 82 Ill.2d 250, 258-60, 412 N.E.2d 509, 513-14, filed the same day as Young.

This summary indicates that Young is correcting a misunderstanding and announcing a rule applicable to all suppression orders. Decisions during the 1970s in effect ignored the "bare language" of Rule 604(a)(1) and disregarded the scope of the supreme court's rulemaking power.

In the second section of Young, 82 Ill.2d 234, 243-47, 412 N.E.2d 501, 505-07, the court gives policy reasons to support its departure from tradition. Although interlocutory appeals may increase the time needed to conclude a prosecution and may disrupt "the trial process," they help to correct errors occurring in the trial court and increase the amount of evidence that may be used. These concerns ultimately serve society's interests by insuring that a ...

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