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01/08/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. LAURA BASCOM

January 8, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LAURA BASCOM, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 93--CF--1592. Honorable Charles F. Scott, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication February 20, 1997.

The Honorable Justice Colwell delivered the opinion of the court. McLAREN and Doyle, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colwell

JUSTICE COLWELL delivered the opinion of the court:

The State appeals the circuit court's order quashing the arrest of the defendant, Laura Bascom, and suppressing evidence obtained as a result. The State contends that the court erroneously found that the arresting officer lacked probable cause for the arrest although another officer with whom he was working in concert knew facts that provided probable cause. We reverse and remand.

The record shows that Wauconda police detective Ronald Geary responded to a 9-1-1 call from the defendant's husband, Lance Epoch. Geary found Epoch at his home appearing "heavily soiled, kind of full of mud, and wet." Epoch had an abrasion on his chin and showed other signs of physical contact.

Epoch told Geary that he had arrived home at about 9:30 p.m. and the defendant arrived soon after. An argument ensued. In the course of the argument, the defendant retrieved a 9-millimeter handgun from the bedroom. The defendant held the gun to her head and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not fire. She then pointed the gun at Epoch and pulled the trigger, with the same result. Epoch tried to call 9-1-1, but the defendant disconnected the phone. The defendant struck him in the face several times during the confrontation.

Epoch provided Geary with a description of the defendant. He said she might have been headed to one of two bars in Fox Lake or to Good Samaritan Hospital. Geary then issued an ISPERN dispatch to area police units. The dispatch noted that the defendant was a suicide risk and was wanted for domestic battery. Sometime that night, Geary issued a nontraffic citation against the defendant for domestic battery.

At 11:45 p.m. during roll call, Officer Joseph Neary of the Fox Lake police department was advised of the ISPERN dispatch and that the defendant was wanted for domestic battery. A Fox Lake police dispatcher informed Neary that the defendant might be found at the Old Style Inn or the Aquarium Tavern in Fox Lake.

At the hearing, Neary testified that he received additional information regarding the defendant some time that evening. Specifically, Neary stated that he learned that a firearm was involved in the alleged domestic battery. Neary testified, however, that he could not remember whether he received this information before or after he arrested the defendant.

Neary found the defendant, who matched the description in the dispatch, at the Old Style Inn. Neary arrested the defendant pursuant to Wauconda's domestic battery request. The defendant said that a nearby purse was hers. Neary took the defendant and her purse to the Fox Lake police station. An inventory of the defendant's purse disclosed a folded paper that Neary recognized as something commonly used to transport cocaine. Neary felt the paper and detected a soft material inside. He then opened the paper. A laboratory test later confirmed that the powder in the folded paper was cocaine. Defendant denied knowledge of the cocaine.

The defendant filed a motion to quash her arrest and suppress the cocaine. The court granted the motion, stating that Detective Geary had "statutory reasonable grounds" and "constitutional probable cause" to arrest the defendant, but that Officer Neary did not. The court denied the State's motion to reconsider and the State perfected this appeal.

The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court correctly found that Officer Neary lacked probable cause to arrest the defendant. Indeed, for purposes of this appeal, the defendant does not dispute that Detective Geary had probable cause to arrest her. She also does not contest the propriety of the search of her purse. The defendant argues, however, that Geary's knowledge cannot be imputed to Neary, the arresting officer. She emphasizes that the precise contents of the ISPERN dispatch are unclear (although admitted into evidence, the dispatch does not appear in the record on appeal), and that Neary made no independent observations of the defendant which would have provided grounds to arrest her.

Generally, a ruling on a motion to suppress will not be disturbed unless it is manifestly erroneous. People v. Frazier, 248 Ill. App. 3d 6, 12, 187 Ill. Dec. 369, 617 N.E.2d 826 (1993). However, suppression motions are best characterized as raising mixed questions of fact and law, and if all factual disputes in a case have been resolved, only a question of law remains. People v. Foskey, 136 Ill. 2d 66, 76, 143 Ill. Dec. 257, 554 N.E.2d 192 (1990). Consequently, it is important to note the difference between a ruling rendered by applying law to stipulated or undisputed facts and the process of evaluating the credibility of testimony and weighing evidence. Frazier, 248 Ill. App. 3d at 12. Indeed, ...


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