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People v. Lidster

March 30, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT S. LIDSTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 97--DT--3462 Honorable Mark W. Dwyer, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

Not Released For Publication

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROBERT S. LIDSTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 97--DT--3462 Honorable Mark W. Dwyer, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

Following a jury trial, defendant, Robert Lidster, was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (625 ILCS 5/11--501(a)(2) (West 1998)). Defendant was arrested after being stopped at an "informational roadblock" conducted by the Lombard police department. He appeals, contending that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence because the roadblock was an unreasonable seizure.

 On August 30, 1997, Lombard police set up an "informative stop" on North Avenue, at the location of a hit-and-run accident a week before. The officers intended to stop all eastbound traffic and pass out flyers about the accident, hoping that someone had witnessed the incident and could provide information about the offender or his vehicle.

While conducting the roadblock, Detective Wayne Vasil was standing in the center lane of North Avenue. As each vehicle pulled up, an officer would hand the driver a flyer about the accident. One such vehicle was defendant's Mazda minivan, which almost struck Vasil as defendant approached. At that point, Vasil was not aware that defendant had violated any state law or city ordinance, although he had "some sort of feeling that something might be wrong." Vasil stated that defendant's van had already been stopped pursuant to the roadblock before nearly striking him.

Vasil approached the van to ask defendant why he had almost hit him. During the ensuing conversation, Vasil began to suspect that defendant might be under the influence of alcohol. As a result, he directed defendant to pull onto a side street for field sobriety tests. Another officer conducted the tests and defendant was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Defendant moved to quash his arrest, arguing that the roadblock was unconstitutional. The trial court denied the motion. Subsequently, a jury found defendant guilty and the court sentenced him to court supervision. After the court denied his posttrial motion, defendant filed a timely notice of appeal.

On appeal, defendant renews his argument that the roadblock was unconstitutional. He contends that, under the balancing test developed by the state and federal courts, the public interest in conducting the roadblock--searching for evidence about a prior crime--did not outweigh the intrusion on the rights of innocent motorists.

A fourth amendment seizure occurs when a vehicle is stopped at a checkpoint. Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444, 450, 110 L. Ed. 2d 412, 420, 110 S. Ct. 2481, 2485 (1990); People v. Fullwiley, 304 Ill. App. 3d 44, 49 (1999). Whether a particular roadblock or similar device violates the fourth amendment is a question of reasonableness. People v. Bartley, 109 Ill. 2d 273, 280 (1985). The test courts have developed to assess the reasonableness of a procedure involves balancing the intrusion on an individual's fourth amendment interests against the program's promotion of legitimate government interests. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 654, 59 L. Ed. 2d 660, 667-68, 99 S. Ct. 1391, 1396 (1979). This in turn requires the court to weigh the gravity of the public concerns served by the seizure and the degree to which the seizure advances those interests against the severity of the interference with individual liberty. Brown v. Texas, 443 U.S. 47, 50-51, 61 L. Ed. 2d 357, 361-62, 99 S. Ct. 2637, 2640 (1979); Bartley, 109 Ill. 2d at 280.

After the parties filed their briefs, the United States Supreme Court decided City of Indianapolis v. Edmond, 531 U.S. ___, 148 L. Ed. 2d 333, 121 S. Ct. 447 (2000). There, citizens sought to enjoin the city's use of roadblocks to search for evidence of drug trafficking. The court found the roadblock program unconstitutional because its sole purpose was to uncover evidence of "ordinary criminal wrongdoing." Edmond, 531 U.S. at ___, 148 L. Ed. 2d at 343, 121 S. Ct. at 454. Noting that its roadblock cases had recognized only a limited exception to the rule that a seizure must be accompanied by some measure of individualized suspicion, the Edmond majority observed that the roadblocks the Court had previously approved were designed to further a compelling purpose such as promoting highway safety by targeting drunk drivers (see Sitz, 496 U.S. at 455, 110 L. Ed. 2d at 423, 110 S. Ct. at 2488) or policing the border to stanch the flow of illegal aliens (see United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 551-52, 49 L. Ed. 2d 1116, 1124-25, 96 S. Ct. 3074, 3080 (1976)). Edmond, 531 U.S. at ___, 148 L. Ed. 2d at 341-42, 121 S. Ct. at 452-53. However, the Court declined "to suspend the usual requirement of individualized suspicion where the police seek to employ a checkpoint primarily for the ordinary enterprise of investigating crimes." Edmond, 531 U.S. at ___, 148 L. Ed. 2d at 345, 121 S. Ct. at 455.

Although the roadblock in this case is in some ways different from the one at issue in Edmond, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the roadblock's ostensible purpose was to seek evidence of "ordinary criminal wrongdoing." Vasil testified that the roadblock was set up in the hope of obtaining more information about a driver responsible for killing a bicyclist a week earlier. The police stopped cars near the site of the accident and at about the same time of day the accident occurred in the hope that someone who left work at that time or ...


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