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People v. Dale

December 04, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DARRELL DALE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County 96CF475

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steigmann, Justice

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Honorable James A. Hendrian, Judge Presiding.

In May 1996, the State charged defendant, Darrell Dale, with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (15 grams or more but less than 100 grams of a substance containing heroin) with a prior conviction of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(1)(A) (West Supp. 1995)). In July 1996, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained from the motel room in which he was staying. In September 1996, the trial court held a hearing on defendant's motion and later denied it. In June 1997, the court conducted a stipulated bench trial, found defendant guilty of the offense, and sentenced him to eight years nine months in prison.

Defendant appeals, arguing only that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence. We reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

At the September 1996 hearing on defendant's motion to suppress evidence, the trial court heard testimony from defendant, the motel manager, and two of the police officers who obtained evidence from defendant's motel room. That testimony showed the following.

On January 19, 1996, defendant was renting a room at a Decatur motel on a day-to-day basis. Motel personnel had noticed an unusually high volume of traffic in and out of defendant's room, and the cleaning staff had observed items in the room that they suspected were related to drug trafficking. Accordingly, the motel manager decided to tell defendant he could no longer stay at the motel. Because of his concern for safety and security, the manager called the Decatur police and asked them to remove defendant from the premises.

When the police officers arrived, they knocked on the door to defendant's room and identified themselves. Defendant let the officers enter his room and also consented to being frisked. The police found several hundred dollars in cash on defendant's person. Defendant then consented to a search of the room, but he withdrew his consent shortly after the officers began looking around the room.

When defendant withdrew his consent, the officers informed him that the motel manager wanted him to leave. He agreed to do so. At that point, one of the officers "advised [defendant] that [the police] would stand by *** while he got his things and left the room." Defendant made no protest.

One of the officers went to the closet, where defendant's clothes were hanging, and started squeezing them "to make sure [they contained] no weapons or anything." That officer took articles of clothing out of the closet and handed them to defendant, who began packing them into a paper bag.

During this process, a small, clear plastic bag containing a white powdery substance appeared on the floor at defendant's feet. The police handcuffed defendant and conducted a field test on the substance inside the plastic bag. The test yielded a negative result.

The police then released defendant and told him that he could leave; however, they also told him that he could not take any of his belongings out of the room. After defendant left the motel, the police had the motel manager modify the door lock in such a way that only the police--and not defendant--could obtain access to the room. One officer waited in the motel lobby, while two other officers went to obtain a search warrant.

These two officers took the plastic bag containing the white powdery substance to the Decatur police headquarters, tested it again, and obtained a positive result for the presence of cocaine. The search warrant application included information about the white powdery substance and the positive test result.

Later that same day, a Judge issued a search warrant, and the police executed it. From within defendant's former motel room, they seized 16.5 grams of a substance containing heroin, electronic scales, documents that appeared to be records of drug trafficking, and some packaging material.

In May 1996, the State charged defendant as earlier stated. In July 1996, defendant moved to suppress everything that the police seized both before and during the execution of the search warrant. In September 1996, the trial court conducted a hearing on this motion and later denied it in a written order. The court subsequently convicted defendant at a stipulated bench trial and sentenced him as stated.

This appeal followed.

II. THE MOTION TO ...


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