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United States v. Hairston

May 15, 1985


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 83-2006 - Harold A. Baker, Judge.

Bauer, Presiding Judge, Coffey, Circuit Judge, and Brown, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Brown

BROWN, Senior District Judge.

Appellant, J. B. Hairston appeals from his conviction under Section 1202(a)(1) of Appendix of Title 18 U.S.C., the federal statute which makes it a crime for a convicted felon to possess a firearm. Appellant was arrested by a deputy sheriff in Kankakee, Illinois in July, 1983, upon a police dispatcher's report that Hairston's license was suspended. Following the arrest, a search of his person produced the firearm in question. After the arrest and search, it was discovered that appellant in fact had a valid driver's license, and that the person whose license had been suspended was Jay B. Hairston of Kankakee, the son of appellant.

Prior to trial, appellant moved to suppress the firearm and his subsequent confession on the basis of illegal search and seizure. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied the motion. The legality of appellant's arrest is the only issue before us on this appeal.

Appellant contends that because erroneous information concerning his driver's license was communicated to the arresting officer, there was no probable cause for his arrest, and therefore the subsequent search which produced the firearm was unlawful.

The facts concerning Hairston's arrest and search, as found by the trial court, are without dispute. They may be summarized as follows:

On July 1, 1983 Hairston was driving east on Route 17, near the intersection with Highland Avenue in Kankakee County, Illinois, about 11:30 p.m. At that time he had two passengers in the car. Hairston passed a patrol car containing two county deputy sheriffs, and then pulled over and stopped after the deputies signaled him to stop. When he asked Deputy Morefield what was wrong, he was told that one of his headlights was out. One of the headlights was in fact out, and at the time of the stop, there was an observable traffic violation by the vehicle that Hairston was driving. Deputy Morefield asked Hairston for his driver's license, and returned to the police car to check the information on the license. It was unclear from the evidence whether Hairston gave his license to Morefield or whether he did not have his license and told Morefield his name and date of birth.

Upon checking with the Kankakee County Dispatcher's office, Morefield was told that Hairston's license to drive was suspended. In providing this information the dispatcher's checked a computer used by the Sheriff's Department and also checked the cards held by the Department from the Illinois Secretary of State's Driver's Service Department. These checks resulted in information that J. B. Hairston, resident of Kankakee, was a suspended driver.

It was later revealed by the evidence that the "J. B. Hairston" of Kankakee whose license was suspended was Jay B. Hairston, the son of appellant. At the time of the arrest, the appellant was a person of 55 years of age, and his son, Jay B. Hairston was a man 30 years of age. Neither of the officers had a specific recollection of verifying the date of birth of the person upon whom the license check was run.

The date of birth did not make an impression upon the officers in the course of running the license check. The thing which did impress them was that a "J. B. Hairston" of Kankakee, Illinois, had his license suspended, and the sheriffs had stopped a person who met that identification, namely a J. B. Hairston of Kankakee, Illinois.

After the information was received from the dispatcher, Deputy Morefield told appellant that he was under arrest, and would be taken to the Detention Center. He was searched and found to possess the firearm in question. The search was made because Hairston was to be placed in the police vehicle and transported to the Detention Center. Hairston was searched as a routine precaution.

Upon these facts the trial court found that Deputy Morefield had both a subjective and objective belief that Hairston was a person driving without a valid license, and so subject to arrest.

The test for probable cause for arrest without a warrant is set out in Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 13 L. Ed. ...

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