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02/26/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. CHARLES THORNTON

February 26, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHARLES THORNTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 95--CM--2937. Honorable George Bridges, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication March 26, 1997.

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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle

The Honorable Justice DOYLE delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, Charles Thornton, was convicted of cruelty to an animal in violation of section 3.01 of the Humane Care For Animals Act (Act) (510 ILCS 70/3.01 (West 1994)). The trial court imposed a sentence that included, inter alia: 10 days of incarceration; 2 years of probation; 200 hours of community service; and restitution totalling $3,571.83.

Defendant filed a timely appeal. On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred when it (1) denied his motion to suppress evidence which was seized in a warrantless search of his residence; (2) required him to pay restitution; and (3) imposed an excessive sentence on him.

We will first address defendant's contention that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence. At a hearing on the motion, Sergeant Ryland Woodruff testified as follows. On May 29, 1995, Woodruff was on duty as a police officer for the Grayslake police department. At approximately 9 a.m. on that day, Woodruff responded to a report that a dog had been barking for several days inside an apartment in an apartment complex in Grayslake.

Woodruff went to the apartment complex and met with Debbie Nissen, the manager of the apartment complex. Nissen told Woodruff that tenants had complained to her about a dog that had been barking and yelping for two or three days inside apartment 104 in the complex. In response to these complaints, Nissen had unsuccessfully tried to contact defendant, the tenant of apartment 104, by knocking on the door of defendant's apartment, by calling defendant's apartment phone number, and by calling defendant's place of employment. Nissen also attempted to look inside defendant's apartment, but could not see inside the apartment because the blinds were closed.

Woodruff further testified that Nissen told him that she then used a key to enter defendant's apartment. Upon entering defendant's apartment, Nissen found a brown-colored dog in a small cage in a secondary bedroom. The cage was so small that the dog could not stand inside the cage. The bottom of the cage was covered with urine and feces. There was no sign of food or water in the cage. The dog was very thin and had blood on its paws. The dog was shaking and continuously made a whimpering and yelping sound.

Woodruff also spoke with a tenant who lived in the apartment above defendant's apartment. This tenant told Woodruff that the dog had been making the yelping sound continuously, "all day and all night," for two or three days.

Based on this information, Woodruff and another police officer decided that it was necessary to enter immediately defendant's apartment to "check on the well being of the dog." As the police officers came within six or seven feet of the entrance to defendant's apartment, they detected a strong odor of feces and urine. Upon entering the apartment, the police officers discovered a dog in a cage in conditions matching the conditions which Nissen had described.

The trial court based its denial of defendant's motion to suppress the evidence found in his apartment on the ground that the police were justified in entering defendant's apartment without a warrant because of an emergency related to the condition of the dog. On appeal, defendant contends that there are two reasons why the trial court's ruling was erroneous: (1) section 10 of the Act specifically prohibits the entry into a residence without a warrant; and (2) no emergency justified the warrantless entry.

We first consider defendant's statutory argument. Section 10 of the Act provides, in pertinent part:

"Upon receiving a complaint of a suspected violation of this Act, a Department investigator, any law enforcement official, or an approved humane investigator may, for the purpose of investigating the allegations of the complaint, enter during normal business hours upon any premises where the animal or animals described in the complaint are housed or kept, provided such entry shall not be made into any building which is a person's residence, except by search warrant or court order." 510 ILCS 70/10 (West 1994).

Defendant contends that the plain words of section 10 prohibit the warrantless entry of a residence by police to investigate a complaint regarding cruelty to an animal. Defendant argues that section 10 does not enumerate any exceptions to the warrant requirement for the search of a residence and that therefore there are no exceptions to the warrant requirement. Defendant asserts that the police violated the prohibition against warrantless entry when they entered his apartment without a warrant to investigate a complaint of cruelty to an animal.

The State responds that defendant has misread section 10. The State contends that the obvious intent of the legislature in enacting section 10 was to broaden the protection for animals subjected to cruelty. The State argues that the legislature sought to do this by granting an extraordinary exception in section 10 to the general warrant requirement for searches of nonresidential premises. In the State's view, the language in section 10 specifying that a warrant is required to search a residence merely indicates that the extraordinary exception does not apply to searches of residences, but does not mean that there are no exceptions to the warrant requirement.

The primary objective in construing the meaning of a disputed statute is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the legislature. People v. Robinson, 172 Ill. 2d 452, 457, 217 Ill. Dec. 729, 667 N.E.2d 1305 (1996). The most reliable indicator of legislative intent is the language of the statute itself. People v. Tucker, 167 Ill. 2d 431, 435, 212 Ill. Dec. 664, 657 N.E.2d 1009 (1995). In construing the statute, a court should consider every part of the statute together. People v. Warren, 173 Ill. 2d 348, 357, 219 Ill. Dec. 533, 671 N.E.2d 700 (1996). Because the construction of the statute is a question of law, our review is de novo. Robinson, 172 Ill. 2d at 457.

With these principles in mind, and viewing the language of section 10 of the Act as a whole, we agree with the State's position. The language in section 10 which states that "entry shall not be made into any building which is a person's residence, except by search warrant or court order," is plainly intended to make it clear that the extraordinary exception to the general warrant requirement for investigatory searches of nonresidential premises set out in section 10 does not extend to residential premises. There is nothing in section 10 which suggests that this language means that the few specifically established and well-delineated exceptions to the general warrant requirement for entry into residential premises (see Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 19 L. Ed. 2d 576, 585, 88 S. Ct. 507, 514 (1967)) are not applicable under the Act.

A contrary construction of section 10 would prevent government agents from entering a residence without a warrant even when faced with exigent circumstances. Such a result would be absurd. We presume that in enacting section 10 the legislature did not intend to produce an absurd, inconvenient or unjust result. Schirmer v. Bear, 174 Ill. 2d 63, 73, 220 Ill. Dec. 159, 672 N.E.2d ...


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