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People v. Ruffin

August 7, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RONALD RUFFIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Bureau County, Illinois No. 99--CF--25 Honorable Scott Madson Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton

The defendant, Ronald Ruffin, was convicted of unlawful cannabis trafficking (720 ILCS 550/5.1(a) (West 1998)). He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay a street-value fine of $24,000. On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) his motion to suppress should have been granted; (2) the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance possessed by the defendant was cannabis sativa; (3) the State's improper closing argument denied him a fair trial; (4) his sentence is excessive; and (5) he should be given credit against his fine for 95 days of pre-sentence incarceration. We hold that the arresting officer detained the defendant longer than was necessary given the reason for the stop and further that the officer lacked a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminal activity upon which to detain the defendant until the arrival of the canine unit. Thus, we hold that the defendant's motion to suppress should have been granted. We reverse the judgment of the circuit court of Bureau County.

On April 20, 1999, at approximately 7:55 p.m., the defendant and his fiancée were traveling eastbound on Interstate Route 80. The arresting officer effected a traffic stop at that time because he had determined that the defendant was driving 69 miles per hour, 4 miles per hour over the speed limit of 65.

A videotape shows the stop beginning at 7:57:40 p.m. The arresting officer approached the defendant's car and asked for the defendant's license, telling the defendant that he had been traveling "a little bit fast." The officer asked the defendant if the car was his and the defendant replied that he had rented the car. The defendant showed the officer the car rental agreement, and the officer asked if the defendant had rented the car in San Diego. The defendant replied that he had. The defendant told the officer that he had been visiting his grandparents in Oakland, California, and he and his fiancée had traveled to San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, as well.

At 7:59:10, the arresting officer asked the defendant to sit in the officer's car. He told the defendant that he was going to write a warning ticket if the defendant's license was clear. He asked the defendant about his home town of Rochester, New York. The defendant and the officer proceeded to sit in the officer's vehicle.

While they were in the officer's vehicle, the officer and the defendant conversed about the defendant's trip to California. The defendant told the officer that his mother had rented a car in New York for him to drive to California. The officer asked the defendant when he had left New York. The defendant answered that he had taken a civil service examination on a Wednesday and they had left the next day, Thursday. The officer asked if it had been the previous Wednesday, the 14th. The defendant initially agreed, but immediately corrected himself and stated that they had left New York on the 7th. The defendant told the officer that he was nervous about sitting in a police officer's car.

According to the defendant, he and his fiancée had stayed in Oakland five or six days and then headed to San Diego with his uncle. The defendant told the officer that he had not known his uncle very well, and had met him only once or twice before. They had stayed overnight in San Diego, and the defendant and his uncle had taken the defendant's fiancée to Tijuana. On their return to San Diego, the defendant's uncle had rented another car for the defendant and his fiancée because the gas gauge on the first car was malfunctioning. After that, the defendant's uncle returned to Oakland by bus and the defendant and his fiancée had started on their way back to New York.

The defendant told the officer that he and his fiancée were in their third day of traveling. They had spent the previous two nights in motels, the last one in Kearney, Nebraska.

At 8:05:39, the arresting officer called the dispatcher for a check on the defendant's driver's license. The dispatcher reported at 8:07:05 that the defendant's driver's license was suspended effective March 17, 1999. The defendant told the officer that he had paid a fine to clear his license before leaving New York. He had a receipt to prove payment, but had forgotten to bring it with him on the trip. The officer asked the defendant if the defendant's fiancée had a valid license, and the defendant replied that she did. The officer then asked the defendant to retrieve his fiancée's license to be checked.

At 8:08:41, the arresting officer called in the defendant's fiancée's driver's license and asked for the reason for the defendant's suspension. The dispatcher told him that the defendant's license was suspended as the result of a judgment. The defendant's fiancée's license was determined to be valid at 8:09:20. The arresting officer then advised the defendant that he would be getting a ticket for failure to have a valid license.

The arresting officer asked the defendant to sign the tickets at 8:14:17. Then he took the defendant's fiancée's license back to her and had a conversation, the majority of which was not recorded on the videotape. In one audible section, the defendant's fiancée told the officer that authorities in New York had told the defendant to retain the receipt for the clearance of his license because it would take a long time to clarify their records. According to the officer's testimony at the motion to suppress, the defendant's fiancée told him at this time that only she and the defendant had traveled to Tijuana.

At 8:19:20, the arresting officer gave the defendant his tickets. He told the defendant that the defendant was free to go and said, "Have a safe trip." At the hearing on the defendant's motion to suppress, the officer indicated that he did not believe that the defendant was truly free to go at this time. The officer intended to detain the defendant to effect a search of his car, either by consent or with the assistance of the canine unit.

At 8:19:34, the arresting officer asked the defendant if he had anything illegal in his car. The defendant replied, "No." The officer asked the defendant for consent to search the vehicle. The defendant refused consent, telling the officer that he had personal items in the trunk of the car, including sex toys, vibrators, and lingerie. The defendant indicated that he did not want his fiancée to see them. The officer said, "She's up there, man." The defendant replied, "I know." The officer then asked again for consent to search the car. Again, the defendant refused to consent. Then the officer told the defendant that he would be detaining the vehicle until the canine unit could arrive for a walk-around. The defendant then admitted, at 8:20:44, that his fiancée possessed marijuana.

The arresting officer talked to the defendant's fiancée and recovered a small bag of what appeared to be cannabis. He then informed the defendant that the defendant was under arrest. He asked the defendant again if anything else was in the car, telling the defendant that he would find out if ...


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