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People v. Garman





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. Joseph B. McDade, Judge, presiding.


The State appeals the trial court's order suppressing evidence that was the product of a police stop of the defendant's car. Also before this court is the State's motion to file certification that the suppression order totally impairs its ability to prosecute the case. We take the motion with the case and affirm.

The facts of the case, which are not in controversy, were set forth in the testimony of Peoria police officer Sauer at a hearing on the defendant's motion to quash his arrest. Officer Sauer was on patrol at 10 p.m. on October 14, 1982. Two girls aged approximately nine and 10 flagged down the officer and excitedly told him that a man driving a car had just yelled something at them and asked them to come over to the man's car. The girls did not know what the man had said but it had startled and scared them. The girls pointed out a moving car as the described vehicle. The officer, without identifying the girls, started after the vehicle they pointed out.

With use of his overhead lights the officer stopped the identified vehicle. After stopping the vehicle the officer noticed the car's license plates had expired. The officer talked with the car's driver, Hilton Garman, Jr., the defendant. The defendant denied that he had scared the girls but admitted he had said something to them. The officer testified that he was satisfied that the defendant had not harmed the girls but, after observing the defendant's action and speech, he arrested the defendant on charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and no valid registration.

At the close of Officer Sauer's testimony, defense counsel rested. The trial court found that the defense had not met its burden and denied the defendant's motion. On the defendant's motion for rehearing and after receipt of further argument and memoranda, the court reversed its original decision and entered an order quashing the defendant's arrest. The State filed a timely notice of appeal.

• 1 We first address the State's motion to file certification instanter. The defendant in his brief, in addition to addressing the merits, argued that we should dismiss the appeal since the State had not filed the certification required for it to pursue this interlocutory appeal under Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (87 Ill.2d R. 604(a)(1)) and People v. Young (1980), 82 Ill.2d 234, 412 N.E.2d 501. After the filing of the defendant's brief, the State filed with this court its certification that the trial court's suppression order had totally impaired the State's prosecution of the defendant and its motion to file the certification. We grant the State's motion and allow the appeal. The filing of the certification properly may be filed in the reviewing court. People v. Kantowski (1983), 98 Ill.2d 75, 455 N.E.2d 1379.

We now address the substance of the State's argument. It is the State's position that before Officer Sauer stopped the defendant's vehicle, he had an articulable suspicion that the defendant was committing or had committed the offense of disorderly conduct. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 26-1(a)(1).) Under the Criminal Code of 1961, "A person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly: (1) Does any act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace * * *." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 26-1(a)(1).) According to the State, the officer had an articulable reason for stopping the defendant based on the girls' apparent alarm and his concern for the girls' well-being.

Stopping an automobile and detaining its occupants constitute a "seizure" within the meaning of the fourth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. Accordingly, such a seizure is justified only if it meets the requirement of "reasonableness." (Delaware v. Prouse (1979), 440 U.S. 648, 653, 59 L.Ed.2d 660, 667, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1396.) Reasonableness is determined by balancing the need for official intrusion against the constitutionally protected interests of the private citizen. In justifying his action a police officer must point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion. Terry v. Ohio (1968), 392 U.S. 1, 21, 20 L.Ed.2d 889, 905-06, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 1879-80.

In Illinois this standard has been codified to provide that an identified 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" under the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 107-14.

On rehearing, the trial court found that the information available to Officer Sauer, before he stopped the defendant, was insufficient for the officer to have had an articulable suspicion which warranted the stop.

• 2 A reviewing court will not disturb the circuit court's finding on a motion to suppress unless that finding is determined to be manifestly erroneous. (People v. Reynolds (1983), 94 Ill.2d 160, 445 N.E.2d 766.) Based on the record before us we cannot say that the circuit court's finding was manifestly erroneous. The officer did not know the girls' identities and knew nothing more of potential wrongdoing by the defendant than what the girls reported to him. While the girls told the officer that they had been startled by the fact that the defendant had yelled to them, they had not understood many of the defendant's words. Furthermore, the defendant apparently drove away unremarkably when the girls ran from him.

Accordingly, the order of the circuit court of Peoria County is affirmed.


BARRY, J., ...

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