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October 10, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Henry County, Illinois. No. 95--CF--318--5. Honorable Jay M. Hanson, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication November 24, 1997.

Present - Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Presiding Justice, Honorable Michael P. Mccuskey, Justice, Honorable William E. Holdridge, Justice. Justice McCUSKEY delivered the opinion of the court. Lytton, P.j., and Holdridge, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mccuskey

The Honorable Justice McCUSKEY delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Iraida Sanchez, was found guilty of controlled substance trafficking (720 ILCS 570/401.1 (West 1996)). She was sentenced to a term of 60 years' imprisonment.

On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred when it denied her motion to suppress the evidence because no valid consent was given for the search and because she was illegally detained for over 40 minutes; and (2) the evidence was not sufficient to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of controlled substance trafficking. Following our careful review of the record, we affirm.


At the suppression hearing, Floyd Blanks, an Illinois state trooper, testified that he was on patrol at 6:49 a.m. on November 6, 1995. He saw a motorhome traveling 60 miles per hour on Interstate 80 near Kewanee. The posted speed limit for large vehicles, including motorhomes, was 55 miles per hour. Blanks stopped the motorhome and asked the driver for his driver's license. The driver gave him a Florida driver's license which identified him as Elkin Andres Montoya. Blanks then asked the driver to come to the patrol car and bring the vehicle's registration. The driver went back to the trooper's car and handed Blanks the rental agreement for the motorhome. The agreement listed the defendant as the renter of the motorhome and stated that Elkin Montoya was another authorized driver.

Blanks asked the driver about his trip in the motorhome. The driver told him that he was coming from Florida and was going to Chicago to visit his girlfriend. Blanks then asked the driver how many people were present in the motorhome. According to Blanks, the driver answered, "his friend, his friend's wife, his girlfriend and two other friends." Blanks said the driver spoke in somewhat broken English with a heavy accent. However, Blanks testified that he did not have any difficulty understanding what the driver said. Blanks then requested the canine unit. Blanks said his suspicions were aroused when the driver said he was going to visit his girlfriend and then mentioned that his girlfriend was located in the motorhome. Also, the trooper observed a child's bicycle strapped to the back of the motorhome, but the driver said only adults were present in the motorhome.

Blanks testified that the driver asked him if it was that cold all over Illinois. Blanks told him "yes," and the trooper then completed a written warning. Blanks returned the driver's documents and told him that the citation was just a warning. The trooper said the warning ticket would not cost the driver anything. The driver responded with "thank you" and started to leave. Blanks said to hold on because he had to give the driver a copy of the warning. Blanks testified that he then asked the driver for consent to search the vehicle for alcohol, weapons and drugs. The driver looked at him with a surprised expression. Blanks asked one more time. This time, the driver said, "yeah." Blanks did not recall the driver using any body language when he gave the response. Blanks then told the driver that he could wait in his vehicle if he wished and said that a canine unit was on the way. The driver said "okay" and went back to the motorhome. About fifteen minutes later, the driver came back to Blanks' car and asked the trooper if there was a problem. Blanks told him there was no problem. The trooper said that the canine unit had been delayed but would be there shortly. The driver again walked back to the motorhome.

Officer Anna Segura arrived in the canine unit at approximately 7:38 a.m. She was delayed because she had to respond to another request for assistance. Prior to Segura's arrival, two more squad cars arrived to assist. Blanks testified that it was about 40 minutes from the time the driver consented to the search of the vehicle to the time the canine unit arrived.

Segura and Blanks walked up to the passenger side of the motorhome, and the driver opened the door. Blanks testified that he advised the occupants of the motorhome that the driver had given a consent to search the vehicle. Blanks asked if there was any problem with a search. No one voiced an objection, and all six of the individuals in the vehicle left the motorhome. The people were told to sit in the squad cars so they could keep warm. Segura took her dog into the motorhome. Several minutes later, she came out and said that she found what appeared to be cocaine. Consequently, the six occupants of the motorhome were placed under arrest. During a subsequent search, the officers discovered 13 large black garbage bags filled with bricks of white powder. The powder was tested and found to be over 1,000 pounds of cocaine with a street value of approximately $63 million.

The defendant testified that the driver was her boyfriend. She stated that she was sleeping in the motorhome. She said she did not hear Blanks say he had a consent to search the vehicle or ask if there was any problem. She testified that she speaks English well. However, she testified that she never heard the driver speak English. Armando Manrique, one of the occupants of the motorhome, testified that the driver cannot speak or understand English. Manrique said that he tried to coach the driver how to ask if they could leave during the time they were waiting. The driver forgot what he was supposed to say and just asked if there was a problem.

The driver testified through an interpreter that he was 22 years old. He was born in Columbia and had been in the United States for 11 or 12 months. He said that he did not speak or understand English. He admitted taking some English classes in Columbia and Miami. However, he said that he could only understand a few small words and did not understand Blanks when he asked if he could search the motorhome. He testified that he used the word "ya" when "he was indicating that I could leave already, if I can go. I'm free to go." Surprisingly, the driver testified that if he had understood Blanks' ...

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