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People v. Mabry

April 14, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WILLIE G. MABRY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. Nos.96--CF--1927 96--CM--5395 Honorable Philip L. DiMarzio, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hutchinson

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Defendant, Willie G. Mabry, was indicted on four criminal charges after a search conducted under the purported authority of a search warrant produced evidence of criminal activity. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the warrant was invalid under the fourth amendment (U.S. Const., amend. IV). The trial court granted that motion, and the State appeals. We affirm.

After conducting an investigation, an Elgin police inspector believed that defendant was selling cocaine at a particular apartment in a multiunit building located at 443 Jefferson Street. According to a confidential source, this apartment was defendant's residence. The police inspector prepared a complaint for a search warrant and supporting affidavit. Her complaint and affidavit, taken together, requested the issuance of a warrant to search defendant and his suspected residence for, inter alia, materials relating to the use, purchase, sale, or distribution of cocaine. The accurate address and a thorough physical description of the suspected apartment were provided in both documents.

A search warrant was prepared and submitted, along with the complaint and affidavit, to a Judge for issuance. At the top of the warrant form was a caption containing the names of the trial court and the parties. After defendant's name, the form provided his gender, race, and date of birth; the address, "443 Jefferson"; and the physical description of the apartment. Next appeared the heading "SEARCH WARRANT" and the following, in relevant part:

"Upon examination of the complaint I find that it states fact [sic] sufficient to show probable cause and I therefore command that the person of Willie Gene Mabry, Elgin, Kane County, Illinois, the person executing the warrant is ordered to make entry and announcing the office and to search the following instrument, articles and things which have been used in the commission of, or which constitute evidence of, the offense of Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance seized therefrom ***[.]"

The warrant then listed various materials relating to the use, purchase, sale, or distribution of cocaine, and "any and all documents showing occupancy of said premise[.]"

The warrant was issued on September 19, 1996, at 9:28 p.m. and executed the following day. The inspector who prepared the complaint and affidavit provided the executing officers with a copy of the warrant attached to those documents. The inspector then watched from across the street as those officers performed a search of defendant's alleged residence. The search produced evidence of criminal activity. Defendant was subsequently indicted on charges of (1) unlawful possession of weapons by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24--1.1(a) (West 1996)); (2) possession of firearm ammunition without a requisite firearm owner's identification card (430 ILCS 65/2(a)(2) (West 1996)); (3) unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia (720 ILCS 600/3.5(a) (West 1996)); and (4) unlawful possession of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(a) (West 1996)).

Defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the search, alleging that the warrant did not define the object(s) of the authorized search with enough specificity to comply with the fourth amendment. The trial court granted defendant's motion, and the State timely appealed to this court.

We must first address the standard of review governing this appeal. The State argues that no factual disputes are present in this case and that, therefore, the trial court's decision to quash the warrant is subject to de novo review. Defendant contends that the ruling can be reversed only if it is clearly erroneous.

According to recent case law, an analysis of a trial court's decision to suppress evidence must be conducted in two steps. First, any findings of fact by the trial court are left undisturbed on appeal unless clearly erroneous or against the manifest weight of the evidence. People v. Gonzalez, 184 Ill. 2d 402, 411-12 (1998). The reviewing court must then apply de novo review to the legal determination of whether the evidence should be suppressed. Gonzalez, 184 Ill. 2d at 412. In the present case, the trial court did not rely on any factual findings in making its decision; it simply examined the warrant and determined its facial validity under the applicable law. Thus, we need not conduct the first step in the analysis and will evaluate the court's decision de novo. See Gonzalez, 184 Ill. 2d at 412. Because we agree with the trial court's reading and application of the law, we affirm.

The fourth amendment generally prohibits warrantless searches of a home. U.S. Const., amend. IV; Illinois v. Rodriguez, 497 U.S. 177, 181, 111 L. Ed. 2d 148, 156, 110 S. Ct. 2793, 2797 (1990). To be valid, a search warrant must particularly describe the person or place to be searched and the items to be seized. 725 ILCS 5/108--7 (West 1996); People v. McPhee, 256 Ill. App. 3d 102, 108 (1993). The purpose of this requirement is to prevent the use of general warrants that would give police broad discretion as to where to search and what to seize. People v. Kilfoy, 122 Ill. App. 3d 276, 283 (1984). Therefore, the test for the sufficiency of a description in a search warrant is whether it leaves the executing officer no doubt and no discretion as to the person or premises to be searched. People v. Velez, 204 Ill. App. 3d 318, 328 (1990).

The courts of Illinois have often been called upon to rule on the validity of warrants with imperfect descriptions. Generally, an otherwise valid warrant will not be quashed due to technical errors not affecting the substantial rights of a defendant. 725 ILCS 5/108--14 (West 1996); People v. Ross, 267 Ill. App. 3d 711, 716 (1994). We have noted that errors or omissions in addresses are not per se fatal to the validity of a search warrant. People v. Bauer, 102 Ill. App. 3d 31, 34 (1981). A warrant must simply identify the place to be searched to the exclusion of all others. People v. Thomas, 70 Ill. App. 3d 459, 461 (1979). At the very least, it must enable the police, with reasonable effort, to identify the place intended. People v. Powless, 199 Ill. App. 3d 952, 955 (1990). With these rules as guidance, we turn to the warrant in the present case.

The State concedes that the command section of the warrant issued in this case is incomplete. Read alone, it does not provide explicit authorization to search a residence, nor does it give a particular address of a residence to be searched. Moreover, the warrant fails to contain a description of defendant and fails to specify whether defendant is to be searched. The list of items to be seized is satisfactorily precise, and it does refer to "said premise," but no indication of which premise is referenced. If the command ...


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