APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, THIRD DISTRICT
535 N.E.2d 94, 179 Ill. App. 3d 1063, 128 Ill. Dec. 880 1989.IL.254
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Robert R. Buchar, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE WOMBACHER delivered the opinion of the court. SCOTT and BARRY, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WOMBACHER
The trial court granted defendant Bob R. Winemiller's motion to suppress the evidence against him. The State appeals.
The record shows that in May of 1986, Will County sheriff's deputy Thomas Tichy went to the defendant's premises to buy a transmission. While there, he noticed that one of the cars did not have a vehicle identification number plate. He subsequently reported this to his supervisor. Acting on this information, two peace officers drove by the defendant's premises and observed several vehicles in various stages of dismantlement. Sergeant Albert Pace of the Secretary of State's police then ran the defendant's name through a computer and found that no license had been issued for him to conduct an auto parts recycling business.
On May 21, 1986, seven police officers went to the defendant's premises. They had no search warrant, instead relying on section 5-403 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 95, par. 5-403) as authority for their search. Geraldine and John Rutherford greeted the officers, who introduced themselves and stated the nature of their visit. John told the officers that he worked with the defendant in the auto parts business. Geraldine stated that she lived in the house on the premises.
According to Sergeant Pace, both Rutherfords consented to the officers' searching the premises. Pace further testified that the defendant arrived about 15 minutes later. After learning why the police were there, the defendant supplied some of the titles which the Rutherfords had been unable to locate for the police. The search revealed vehicles missing VIN plates, vehicle titles which had not been properly assigned, and a fabricated VIN plate. In addition to seizing 10 of the incomplete titles, the police photographed the cars and parts missing VIN plates, photographed the entire area, and took one of the defendant's business cards.
Both of the Rutherfords testified that they had not consented to the search. John denied bringing the police any of the titles. Geraldine admitted bringing them some titles, but stated that she did so because she felt she had no choice. She noted that when she asked an officer whether he had a search warrant, the officer displayed his badge and stated: "This is, you know, this is all I need."
The defendant testified that when he arrived two officers explained that they had to check everything and asked if they could look around. The defendant responded: "Looks to me like you're already looking around." He obtained the titles for the officers because he did not believe anything was wrong and because he believed that they could obtain a search warrant if necessary.
The defendant was subsequently charged with five counts of possessing a vehicle with a removed VIN plate, one count of failure to maintain records, and five counts of unlawful possession of a title without a complete assignment. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the defendant's motion to suppress the evidence seized in the warrantless search of his premises.
On appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred in granting the defendant's motion to suppress.
Salvage yards are regulated under chapter 5 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (the Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 95 1/2, par. 1-100 et seq.). Section 5-403 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-403) permits authorized representatives of the Secretary of State, including police officers, to conduct warrantless inspections of the records salvage yards are required to keep. In People v. Madison (1988), 121 Ill. 2d 195, 520 N.E.2d 374, the Illinois Supreme Court held that section 5-403(6) of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-403(6)) required the police to obtain a search warrant before seizing any evidence discovered during the course of an inspection. The court noted that any information uncovered that could serve as the basis for criminal prosecution necessitated obtaining a ...