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People v. Rockey

June 20, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County. No. 99--DT--54 Honorable John B. Roe, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Callum

Defendant, Shelly R. Rockey, was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (625 ILCS 5/11--501(a)(2) (West 1998)) as the result of an incident on April 15, 1999. Because she refused or failed to complete blood-alcohol testing, defendant, who qualified as a first-time offender, received a statutory summary suspension of her driving privilege for six months. Defendant petitioned to rescind the suspension, alleging that there was no probable cause (reasonable ground) or constitutional basis to stop or detain defendant or her vehicle. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted defendant's petition to rescind on July 7, 1999. The State filed a motion to reconsider.

Defendant also filed a motion to suppress evidence. The parties apparently agreed that no further evidence would be taken, and arguments were presented to the court based on the same evidence received during the rescission hearing. In March 2000, the court granted defendant's motion to suppress evidence and denied both the State's motion to reconsider the rescission order and its motion to reconsider the suppression order.

The State timely appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in granting defendant's petition and motion because the "evidence adequately supported an articulable and reasonable basis" for a Terry or investigative stop that led to defendant's subsequent arrest for DUI. We affirm the trial court's orders.

At the suspension hearing, Deputy Sheriff Pamela Wilson testified that, between 12 and 1 a.m., she was driving an unmarked vehicle in Cedarville, a residential village having a population of about 400. She was wearing a shirt marked "Police" on the front of it, and she had a badge. Driving south on Route 26 (Stephenson Street), she passed Oak Street, an east-west street, when she observed on her right what looked like a pickup truck with its lights on parked in the north-south alley that runs between Stephenson Street and Harrison Street. She went around the block by going down to Cherry Street, then Harrison Street, and turned onto Oak Street, heading east toward Stephenson. She then observed the vehicle turning right from Oak south onto Stephenson. When Wilson got to Stephenson, she saw the vehicle turn west onto Cherry. In effect, Wilson followed the vehicle around the block so that both vehicles were going west on Cherry Street. Defendant's vehicle turned northbound onto Harrison and then turned into a driveway off of Harrison Street. Wilson pulled onto Harrison and stopped in the street "just prior" (to the driveway).

When asked what was suspicious about this vehicle, Wilson noted the time of morning and the proximity of the alley to Barkau's auto dealership, which had been burglarized "numerous times before," and she said her suspicion was raised because in the prior 10 days there had been a lot of business burglaries. When asked what facts Wilson had that might lead her to believe defendant was breaking into any cars since she was not on the lot, Wilson replied that she had none but felt she had a duty to check out the situation.

Wilson said she did not stop the vehicle. Defendant got out of her vehicle and started walking toward Wilson's car as Wilson called in her location to the dispatch office. Wilson got out and met defendant about "half way" near the end of the short driveway. Wilson asked defendant if she lived at the address where she pulled into the driveway. Wilson "felt" that defendant was trying to avoid having a vehicle behind her for some reason. Wilson thought it was unusual for a vehicle to go around the block. Defendant said she did not live at that address, but her ex-boyfriend lived there. Defendant walked from the driver's door to the back end of her truck. While speaking with defendant, Wilson could smell a "very strong odor of [an] alcoholic beverage" on her breath, and as she walked back, Wilson noticed that she "staggered somewhat." Defendant was not under arrest. Wilson asked her for identification because of her suspicion regarding her presence in the alley, the odor of the alcoholic beverage, and the staggering. Wilson stated that this was her "probable cause to believe that possibly she might be under the influence of alcohol." Wilson was asked to explain her statement and the term "possibly." When asked whether she had probable cause to believe defendant had committed a crime at that time, Wilson replied, "No."

After obtaining defendant's driver's license, Wilson told defendant to wait. Wilson detained defendant while Wilson went to her police car, made a call for assistance, and ran a record check. When asked what the basis was for making defendant stay in place while she ran a record check and defendant was not arrested for anything, Wilson answered, "I had known [defendant] in the past to have had a suspended driver's license, so to run a check to see if she was suspended any longer, and *** the fact that at that time, due to the odor of alcohol and her staggering, I--to see if she was okay to drive."

When asked what defendant had done wrong to be detained, Wilson answered, "At that point she hadn't done anything wrong." When defendant handed over her driver's license and Wilson saw her name, she remembered that defendant had been suspended, but Wilson did not remember how many years before this had occurred; Wilson wanted to know if defendant was still suspended.

On cross-examination, Wilson further testified that there were numerous burglaries in the prior 10 days throughout the county, but none were in Cedarville. Wilson stated that the license came back "valid." Wilson was suspicious that defendant had not taken the most direct route to the driveway.

On redirect examination, Wilson agreed that, if defendant had backed out of the driveway and gone around the block, Wilson would have let her go, but then Wilson acknowledged that defendant would not have been free to go until Wilson had detained her to make the driver's license check.

Defendant argued that a seizure took place in the driveway for fourth amendment purposes and that there was no probable cause to believe that an offense had been committed and no articulable facts to warrant a Terry detention. The State argued that the officer had reasonable suspicion because the vehicle was stopped in the alley at night, there had been numerous burglaries in the county, circuitous driving led the officer to believe that there was an attempt to evade, and a valid investigatory stop was made. The State concluded that "together with all the facts, that certainly the officer did have reason to stop the vehicle and therefore thereafter, once upon smelling the alcohol and observing the walking, to proceed with the questioning [sic] arrest therefrom." In granting defendant's petition, the court stated, "The Court does not believe that the officer's suspicion in this instance was reasonable." The court later granted defendant's motion to suppress.

A ruling on a petition to rescind or a motion to suppress has generally been reviewed applying a manifest error standard. See People v. Scott, 249 Ill. App. 3d 597, 601 (1993). Thus, in reviewing the lawfulness of a search or seizure, when the trial court's ruling involves factual determinations and credibility assessments, the decision will be reversed on appeal only if it is manifestly erroneous or against the manifest weight of the evidence--that is, only where an opposite conclusion is clearly evident from the record. People v. Buss, 187 Ill. 2d 144, 204 (1999); Scott, 249 Ill. App. 3d at 601. A trial court's determination regarding factual matters, including the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the witnesses' testimony, is entitled to deference by the reviewing court. People v. Robinson, No. 2--00--0240, slip op. at 5 (April 27, 2001); People v. Sanchez, 292 Ill. App. 3d 763, 768 (1997). However, where there is no factual or credibility dispute and the question involves only the application of the law to the undisputed facts, our standard of review is de novo. People v. Sims, 192 Ill. 2d 592, 615 (2000); see Sanchez, 292 Ill. App. 3d at 768 (trial court's ultimate determination regarding reasonableness of warrantless search is subject to de novo review); see also In re G.O., 191 Ill. 2d 37, 46-50 (2000) (contrasting deferential manifest error standard applicable to factual findings with de novo standard applicable to ultimate questions involving reasonable suspicion and probable cause).

The State first argues on appeal that the officer never stopped defendant's vehicle because the officer merely approached defendant after defendant had parked her vehicle. The State concludes that the fourth amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures was not implicated as this was presumably a consensual ...

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