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People v. Hess

June 22, 2000


Appeal from Circuit Court of Edgar County No. 98CF104 Honorable Richard E. Scott, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

In November 1998, the State charged defendant, Timothy G. Hess, with one count of unlawful manufacture of 30 to 500 grams of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/5(d) (West 1998)) and three counts of unlawful possession of weapons by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 1998)). In January 1999, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, which the trial court denied. In July 1999, the State dismissed the weapons charges. Following a stipulated bench trial, the court convicted defendant of unlawful manufacture of more than 10 but not more than 30 grams of cannabis and later sentenced him to one year in prison.

Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence because (1) his consent to a search of his home was the fruit of an illegal detention; and (2) his statements to the police were made (a) while he was illegally detained, and (b) without the benefit of Miranda warnings (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694, 86 S. Ct. 1602 (1966)). We agree with defendant's first argument and reverse.


The evidence presented at the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress showed the following. On November 12, 1998, at about 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon, approximately 15 members of the Illinois State Police Tactical Response Team (Response Team) arrived at the residence of Richard Simmons in Kansas, Illinois, to execute a search warrant. The police also had a warrant for Simmons' arrest and had been informed that (1) he was a felon in possession of a firearm, (2) his residence might be booby-trapped, and (3) he might be high on methamphetamine. Several local police officers assisted the Response Team.

On that day, defendant was at Simmons' home for a social visit and to check on his truck, which Simmons was repairing for him. As Simmons and defendant sat at the kitchen table, they heard a car pull up and Simmons' dogs start to bark. Simmons got up to see what was happening and went out the back door. Defendant started toward the back door when he heard a voice yelling, "Come out of the house. You in the house, out of the house, now." He heard six or eight voices screaming. A police officer toting a submachine gun confronted defendant at the back door, and defendant urinated in his pants out of fright. The officer yelled at defendant to get out of the house and onto the ground. He also yelled, "Don't look at me. Look the other way," and shouted questions at defendant about booby traps. The officer forced defendant to his knees, then his belly, and then spread-eagled and searched him. Simmons was promptly taken away in a police car.

Defendant testified that the police kept him lying handcuffed facedown in the dirt for 15 to 20 minutes while an armed officer stood over him. Defendant was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and testified that he was cold and scared. He had no idea what was going on. Later, the officer lifted defendant off the ground and had him sit on what was described at the hearing as a "stump" by some witnesses and an industrial "spool" by others (hereinafter stump) for another 15 to 20 minutes. A member of the Response Team testified that defendant was only facedown on the ground while he was being frisked and was moved over to the stump after sitting on the ground for only a few minutes.

T.R. Todd, an investigator with the Edgar County Sheriff's department, arrived while defendant was sitting on the stump. Defendant felt reassured upon seeing Todd because he had known him for about 15 years. Shortly after Todd arrived, a police officer told defendant that he was going to take him over to the "man in the down coat," meaning Todd.

Defendant described his first conversation with Todd as follows:

"[Todd] asked me what was going on. I said, 'I don't know what's going on.' He says ***, 'Are you involved in this?' I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about.' He goes, 'Well, we're going over to your house next.' And I said, 'For what?' He goes, 'Well, if you got anything going on, you better tell me right now. 'Cause you can go over there, you can show me what you got, or we can go over there and tear hell out of things and find it ourselves. We're going over there, either way.' That's just what he told me."

According to defendant, Todd was angry and yelling throughout this exchange. Todd indicated that Simmons was involved in the production of methamphetamine. He asked defendant what he had at his house, and defendant told him that he might have "a little pot." Todd told defendant that if it was for defendant's own personal use he would not "do anything about it." Defendant subsequently signed a consent-to-search form authorizing a search of his residence. A police officer then drove defendant to his residence, where the evidence against defendant was found. Defendant was subsequently arrested and charged as stated.

At the hearing, Todd denied that he threatened to search defendant's house even if defendant declined to consent to the search. A notation on the consent-to-search form indicates that defendant signed it at 4:35 p.m.

At the close of the hearing, the trial court granted defendant's motion to suppress regarding statements he made without the benefit of a Miranda warning, but in all other respects, the court denied the motion to suppress. Specifically, the court found that defendant had voluntarily consented to the search of his residence.

Following a stipulated bench trial, the trial court convicted defendant and sentenced him as ...

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