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People v. Harris

October 12, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RAYMOND E. HARRIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois No. 97--CF--5127 Honorable Daniel J. Rozak, Judge Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE.

UNPUBLISHED

A Will County jury convicted defendant Raymond E. Harris of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 1996)). The court subsequently sentenced defendant to 24 months' probation. Defendant appeals. The sole issue on review is whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's pre-trial motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. We reverse defendant's conviction.

FACTS

Defendant was a passenger in an automobile driven by Keith Weathersby on the afternoon of September 27, 1997. Weathersby made an illegal left turn from Route 53 onto Mills Road. Will County Deputy Sheriff Vernard Reed observed the maneuver and activated the overhead emergency lights of his squad car to pull the vehicle over. Reed approached and asked Weathersby for his driver's license and proof of insurance. Weathersby said he did not have his license on his person. He gave a false name because his license was revoked. Reed ran a computer check of the false identification through county dispatch, which was returned showing no valid driver's license. When he returned to the Weathersby vehicle, Reed again spoke with Weathersby. Weathersby then gave his true name and date of birth and told Reed that he had lied at first because his license was revoked. Although Reed had observed no suspicious conduct on defendant's part, he asked defendant for identification. Defendant handed Reed a state identification card. Reed ran another computer check and learned that there was an active warrant for defendant's arrest for failure to appear in court.

Reed then placed defendant under arrest and conducted a search of his person. Reed found a pea-sized rock of cocaine in defendant's pocket and a "Chore Boy," which Reed said could be used to smoke crack cocaine. A subsequent search of Weathersby's vehicle resulted in the discovery of another rock of cocaine in the back seat. Consequently, both men were charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

At the suppression hearing, Reed testified that he asked defendant for identification because he intended to get an I-bond issued for Weathersby and avoid a tow by releasing the vehicle to defendant if he had a valid driver's license. Reed also said that the driver would have been charged with driving while revoked, and the vehicle would have been towed and searched incident to the arrest, if the cocaine had not been discovered during the search at the scene. Defendant testified that Reed never asked if he had a valid license.

Based on the evidence, the trial court denied defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. The court reasoned that when Reed asked for defendant's identification, he intended to find out if defendant had a valid driver's license to avoid having the vehicle towed. The driver's license check co-incidentally revealed an active warrant for defendant's arrest. Therefore, the court reasoned, Reed acted properly in arresting defendant and conducting a search incident to the arrest.

At trial, defendant testified that he met Weathersby on the day of the arrest and requested a ride to a liquor store. He said he was unaware of any cocaine until Reed pulled the rock out of his pocket. He said he cut hair for people and used the "Chore Boy" to clean his combs. Weathersby, testifying for the State, said defendant offered to help him get cocaine in Preston Heights on the date of the arrest. Weathersby subsequently pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance and received an 18-month term of probation.

Based on the evidence, the jury found defendant guilty as charged. His post-trial motion was denied, and he was sentenced, as aforesaid.

ISSUE AND ANALYSIS

Defendant contends that his conviction must be reversed because either (a) Reed was not authorized to ask for his identification, or (b) Reed improperly conveyed the impression that defendant was legally obligated to surrender identification. In support of his arguments, defendant cites People v. Branch, 295 Ill. App. 3d 110, 692 N.E.2d 398 (1998); and People v. Smith, 266 Ill. App. 3d 362, 640 N.E.2d 647 (1994). In response, the State argues that (1) defendant's arguments are waived by his failure to include the suppression issue in his post-trial motion; (2) the trial court's ruling on the suppression motion was not manifestly erroneous; and (3) the court's ruling should be sustained on the ground of inevitable discovery.

1. Waiver

Initially, we reject the State's waiver argument. The waiver rule is a limitation on the parties, and not on the court's jurisdiction. People v. Shaw, 186 Ill. 2d 301, 713 N.E.2d 1161 (1998). We deem defendant's issue in this case sufficiently significant to merit ...


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