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03/17/89 the People of the State of v. Arthur Binder

March 17, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT

v.

ARTHUR BINDER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT

536 N.E.2d 218, 180 Ill. App. 3d 624, 129 Ill. Dec. 534 1989.IL.342

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. James A. Hendrian, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court. McCULLOUGH, P.J., and LUND, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE KNECHT

On April 29, 1988, defendant Arthur Binder was charged by information with illegal consumption of alcohol by a minor (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 43, par. 134a), illegal possession of alcohol by a minor (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 43, par. 134a), and theft (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1)). He filed a motion to suppress evidence June 10, 1988. The circuit court of Macon County granted the motion to suppress September 16, 1988. The State filed an appropriate certificate of impairment and this appeal.

At issue is the validity of a search conducted of the trunk of defendant's vehicle shortly after his arrest on April 24, 1988. The State argues police had probable cause to search the trunk of the car, and alternatively, that the search was justifiable as an inventory search.

At the motion to suppress, defendant testified that at the time of his arrest, his car was properly parked in P.J.'s (an under-21 teen nightclub) parking lot. He did not consent to the search. He had no contract with the owner to leave the car there overnight. The State presented four witnesses. Officer John Anderson, a patrolman with the Macon County sheriff's department, was working as private security at P.J.'s on the date of the arrest. He testified he approached a small, mid-sized compact car, in which he observed a heavy-set man in the driver's seat, and a younger female on the passenger's side. He looked in the car and noticed what appeared to be a 12-pack of beer. He determined the occupants were under 21. He stated defendant, who was not in the automobile, came out "to see where we were." On cross-examination, Anderson stated he saw beer on the floorboard and smelled beer in the car, and he never saw defendant inside the car. Anderson stated the vehicle was parked properly.

Working with Anderson at P.J.'s on the date of the arrest was Thomas L. Butts, Jr., an off-duty Decatur policeman who also worked private security. He testified he and Anderson approached a vehicle with two people in it. He noticed beer cans in the car. Defendant approached the security guards, handed Butts his driver's license, and stated the vehicle was his. Defendant was arrested, and the search subsequently occurred.

Butts stated he was familiar with police department policies on towing vehicles. He stated cars were towed after an arrest to secure vehicles, keep them from being vandalized, and to protect the police department from claims. Defendant's vehicle was parked in a parking lot accessible by the public at any hour.

On cross-examination, Butts testified the car was properly parked. Defendant approached the officers and identified himself. He was detained for a few minutes by Butts and other officers. Butts testified the car was not on P.J.'s parking lot, but was parked on nearby private property. Butts did not participate in the inventory search of defendant's car.

Officers Timothy Boulware and Dennis Tortorice of the Decatur police department were summoned to the scene. Boulware testified when he arrived, he saw Anderson and Butts near a vehicle and observed three subjects in custody for illegal consumption of alcohol. Boulware talked to defendant and smelled alcohol on his breath. He determined defendant was 18 or 19 years old and was not in the company of his parents. Following defendant's arrest, the vehicle was towed and an inventory search was conducted.

On cross-examination, Boulware could not recall whether defendant was inside or outside the automobile, though he testified the other two minors were in the car. Boulware testified he made a written inventory of the contents of the vehicle. When questioned about the inventory form by defense counsel, he stated it was still at the police station, filed along with other reports regarding the incident. He subsequently testified the inventory was at police headquarters. Boulware testified the car was properly parked and not a hazard to traffic. He did not ask for permission to inventory or tow defendant's car. He stated it was the department's policy to tow the car. He denied his purpose in inventorying the car was to just look through the contents. He stated department policy required officers to perform an inventory of the entire vehicle, which is why officers opened the trunk of defendant's car. He stated it was not department policy to inventory cars that were properly parked and where the owner or driver of the car was not inside the car at the time of arrest. On redirect, he stated the officers towed the car pursuant to the department's policy that they tow every vehicle when the subject is arrested.

Officer Dennis Tortorice responded to the call along with Officer Boulware. He stated defendant's vehicle was towed to make sure it was secure and that nothing happened to it in the parking lot. He testified an inventory search occurred within 15 minutes ...


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