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07/08/87 the People of the State of v. Richard Uran

July 8, 1987





510 N.E.2d 610, 157 Ill. App. 3d 294, 109 Ill. Dec. 742 1987.IL.970

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Bruce Falk, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE STOUDER delivered the opinion of the court. HEIPLE and WOMBACHER, JJ., concur.


The defendant, Richard Uran, was convicted of two counts of felony theft and four counts of possessing a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part with knowledge that the vehicle identification number had been removed or falsified. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1); ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(a)(4).) He was sentenced to concurrent terms of five years for each theft and three years for each motor vehicle offense. He appeals from his convictions, raising arguments related to the court's denial of defense motions to suppress evidence. We affirm.

In a pretrial motion, the defendant sought to suppress the evidence seized as a result of his June 9, 1983, arrest. In support of that motion, the defendant asserted that his arresting officers lacked probable cause for the traffic stop and vehicle search which preceded his arrest. Specifically, the defendant asserted, inter alia, that the windows on the cap of the truck he was driving on the night of his arrest were mirrored or covered so that it would have been impossible for the officers to have observed through them a violation supporting his stop and search. The defendant also sought specifically to suppress the truck. To support the latter portion of his suppression motion, the defendant relied upon the fact that on June 16, after the defendant had presented a court order for release of the truck to him, the police searched the vehicle without a warrant.

The evidence in the lengthy pretrial suppression proceedings included the following. Will County sheriff's officer Gregg Jarrette testified that late on June 8, 1983, he received an anonymous telephone call at home. The caller described a pick-up truck which might soon be transporting stolen auto parts. Jarrette and his fellow officer Mike Barton, who was visiting at Jarrette's home, drove to the area described by the caller. They observed a truck matching the caller's description and followed it to a truck stop, where the truck parked. The officers radioed for assistance and then Jarrette, Barton, and an Officer Kryda used a flashlight to look into the window on the passenger side of the truck's cap. Each of the three officers testified that he observed automobile parts, including a door with a removed VIN, stacked inside the camper.

According to the officers' testimony, after viewing the VIN violation, they returned to their automobiles and waited for someone to return to the truck. When two men drove the truck away, the officers followed the truck and stopped it before it left Will County. After stopping the truck, the officers removed, then replaced, auto parts inside the truck. They also arrested the defendant driver and his passenger, Gary Heldt.

After stopping and searching the truck, the officers had it towed to a garage. There, they removed the auto parts from the truck, placing the removed items in no particular order and keeping no record of the loading arrangement or the unloading process. The following day, Friday, June 10, the reloaded truck was towed to the Will County sheriff's impoundment yard. On that date, evidence technician Officer Ronald Pruss noticed that the truck lacked a VIN in the area of its driver-side door. He secured the vehicle in the locked impoundment yard. On the following Monday, June 13, Officer Pruss unloaded the truck's contents, made a generalized inventory, and requested that a special agent from the National Auto Theft Bureau come to examine the truck. As he knew that the arrangement of the auto parts had been disturbed, he did not record the loading arrangement or the unloading process.

Officer Pruss was next concerned with the truck on June 15. At approximately 3:50 p.m. on that date, the defendant came to the police station with a court order for release of the truck to him. At that time, the truck was inoperable as the drive shaft was still disconnected following towing. Officer Pruss told the defendant that as the police mechanics were unavailable to reconnect the drive shaft, the truck could not be released. He declined to allow the defendant to reconnect the drive shaft and asked the defendant to return on the following day. On the following morning, police mechanics reconnected the drive shaft. Additionally, Special Agent Coy Strunk of the National Auto Theft Bureau examined the truck.

The defendant and his passenger testified that on the night of their arrest, one could not see into the windows of the truck's cap. According to their testimony, the rear window on the cap was mirrored and the side windows were covered so that it would have been impossible to see into the cap through them. The defendant also testified that even if the side window covering had been displaced so that one could see into the window, any view of VIN tags on the auto parts in the truck was blocked by blankets or pads around the parts and by the compact packing of the parts.

The court denied the defendant's suppression request. Initially, it found probable cause for the defendant's stop and arrest, based upon its findings that the truck cap windows had not all been blocked and that the officers had viewed a VIN violation through a cap window. The court further found that the officers were justified on June 15 in not releasing the truck pursuant to the defendant's release-of-evidence order.

On appeal following his convictions, the defendant raises two arguments concerning the court's denial of suppression. First, the defendant argues that the court erred in refusing to allow him access to the truck and auto parts so that he could reload the parts to show the court both the impossibility of the officers' accounts of viewing a VIN violation at the truck stop and exactly how the parts were loaded on the night of his arrest. The State argues, inter alia, that the court did not abuse its discretion in denying the ...

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