Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 98CF518 Honorable John P. O'Rourke, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough
In September 1998, the State charged defendants Marcelo Ledesma, Guadalupe Jose Perez, Richard W. Roth, Jr., and Jeremy A. Edwards with the following crimes: (1) possession of more than 5,000 grams of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(g) (West 1998)) and (2) delivery of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/5(f) (West 1998)). In January 1999, defendants jointly filed a motion to suppress, arguing that officers improperly stopped defendants based solely on a tip an anonymous informant received by illegally intercepting a cellular telephone conversation in violation of state and federal law.
In February 1999, the trial court held a hearing on the motion to suppress. In March 1999, the trial court granted defendants' motion. The State filed a certificate of impairment and now appeals the trial court's ruling. We reverse and remand.
In September 1998, the State charged defendants with possession of more than 5,000 grams of cannabis and delivery of cannabis. In January 1999, defendants jointly filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the initial stop of defendants was improper because it was based solely upon information an informant received by illegally intercepting a cellular telephone conversation.
In February 1999, the trial court held a hearing on the motion to suppress. At the hearing, an officer of the Tilton police department testified that, on the evening of September 18, 1998, he was on duty and received a dispatch regarding a possible drug transaction. An anonymous informant had called 911, alerting authorities that a drug deal was about to take place in the parking lot of the Aldi store on Georgetown Road in Tilton, Illinois, involving one teal-colored automobile. The informant indicated that he learned of this transaction when his scanner intercepted or "picked-up" a cellular telephone conversation.
This officer requested assistance from other officers on duty that evening. Officers positioned themselves in a parking lot across from the Aldi parking lot. Not long after they arrived, officers witnessed a teal-colored automobile drive into the empty Aldi parking lot. The teal-colored car then drove out of the Aldi parking lot and stopped in the Speedway parking lot adjacent to Aldi's. Next, officers witnessed a purple-colored automobile drive into the Aldi parking lot, exit the Aldi parking lot, and drive up alongside the teal-colored car. After being stopped next to each other momentarily with their headlights off, both vehicles switched on their lights and left the Speedway parking lot, following each other north on Route 1. The officers, stationed in separate vehicles, stopped both the teal- and purple-colored automobiles. Officers testified that the stop was based solely upon information received from the anonymous tip. The officers testified that they observed no traffic violations by either car prior to the stop and that no search or arrest warrants had been issued prior to the stop.
Defendant Ledesma was driving the teal-colored vehicle. Perez was a passenger in that vehicle. Defendant Roth was driving the purple-colored vehicle. Edwards was a passenger in that vehicle. After stopping Ledesma, the officer asked him if there were any drugs or alcohol in his vehicle. Ledesma denied having any drugs or alcohol. The officer asked to "take a look" in Ledesma's vehicle. Ledesma indicated that such a search was "no problem," but asked the purpose of the search. The officer responded that he had reason to believe that Ledesma's vehicle contained drugs, after which Ledesma became "unsure" about the search. Despite his uneasiness, Ledesma never limited or withdrew his consent to search his vehicle.
The officers then asked Ledesma and Perez to step out of the vehicle. Officers then walked a canine unit around Ledesma and Perez. The canine indicated on Perez's pants. Officers then walked the canine around the vehicle and the canine alerted on each side of the vehicle, at each door. Officers then opened the vehicle to the canine, which alerted on the passenger's seat and on a black cloth bookbag lying on the floorboard on the passenger side of the vehicle.
While the officer searched Ledesma's vehicle, other officers placed Roth under arrest for driving with a revoked license. Roth indicated that his "bond" was under the front seat of his vehicle. Officers retrieved approximately $5,000 in cash from underneath the front seat of Roth's vehicle.
After the suppression hearing, the trial court took the matter under advisement. In March 1999, the trial court issued its ruling, granting defendants' motion to suppress evidence, stating:
"Although the defendants' position regarding the intercepted communication is persuasive and not rebutted with any authority from the State, there is further reason to question the stop in this case. Based upon the totality of the circumstances in this case, the so-called Terry stop [Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20, L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968)] was not justified. In this case, there were no activities to show a reasonable and articulable suspicion of criminality to justify the stop. There has to be something more concrete than a vague and anonymous informant's tip. There was insufficient independent corroboration of the 'tip' in this case to justify the initial stop. [Citations.]"
The trial court also found that the search exceeded the consent given by Ledesma. This appealed followed.
A. Propriety of the Anonymous Tip
Initially, defendants note that officers based their decision to stop defendants' vehicles solely on the information received from the anonymous tip. Defendants argue that the informant's information was obtained in violation of both Illinois and federal law and was properly suppressed as a result of the unwarranted stop. Our appellate court has previously found that both Illinois and federal law are ...