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People v. Reyes

April 08, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROMMEL REYES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. Nos. 99--CF--3023 00--CF--1672 Honorable Victoria A. Rossetti, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne

Released for publication May 1, 2002.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROMMEL REYES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. Nos. 99--CF--3023 00--CF--1672 Honorable Victoria A. Rossetti, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne

PUBLISHED

 Defendant, Rommel Reyes, appeals the trial court's findings that he violated his probation and was guilty of the offense of false personation of a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/32--5.1 (West 2000)). Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence and (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support either the finding that he violated his probation or the finding that he was guilty of committing the offense. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

To aid in understanding the issues that defendant raises in his appeal, we first briefly review the procedural background to the appeal. On March 20, 2000, in case No. 99--CF--3023, pursuant to a negotiated agreement, defendant, who was a Waukegan police officer at the time, pleaded guilty to charges of official misconduct (720 ILCS 5/33--3(b) (West 2000)) and criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12--15(a)(1) (West 2000)). For these offenses, defendant was placed on felony probation for a period of 24 months.

On June 6, 2000, a Libertyville police officer stopped a motor vehicle that defendant was driving. At the time of the stop, defendant was no longer a Waukegan police officer but was still on probation. Based on defendant's conduct during the stop, the officer arrested defendant and issued a citation charging defendant with false personation of a peace officer. The State subsequently charged defendant by information with the offense of false personation of a police officer and also filed a petition to revoke defendant's probation in case No. 99--CF--3023 on the ground that defendant had committed the offense of false personation of a peace officer. Defendant later filed a motion to quash his arrest and to suppress evidence. The trial court denied the motion.

The State elected to proceed first with a hearing on the petition to revoke probation. Following the hearing, the trial court found that the State had proved by a preponderance of the evidence that defendant violated his probation when he committed the offense of false personation of a peace officer by falsely impersonating a police officer.

The parties then agreed to proceed by stipulated bench trial with respect to the charge against defendant of false personation of a peace officer. The parties agreed that the evidence at the stipulated bench trial would be the same evidence that was presented at the hearing on the petition to revoke probation. Following the stipulated bench trial, the trial court found that defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of false personation of a peace officer.

After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced defendant to intensive probation for a period of 30 months with various conditions, 18 months of periodic imprisonment, and 300 hours of public service. Defendant's timely notice of appeal followed.

We now turn to the issues that defendant raises on appeal. Defendant initially contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. At a hearing on the motion, the State advised the trial court that the parties' understanding of the motion was that it applied only to the events that occurred during the period from when the officer first saw defendant's vehicle until the stop of the vehicle. Because of this understanding, much of the evidence that is relevant to defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence is distinct from the evidence that is relevant to the other issues that defendant raises. We will therefore first set out the facts specifically relevant to the issue of whether the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion and will resolve that issue before proceeding, if necessary, to set out the relevant facts and address the other issues that defendant raises.

At the hearing on the motion, defendant testified that on June 6, 2000, at around 1:30 a.m., he was driving his car, a white GMC Jimmy, northbound on Route 45 when a Libertyville police officer stopped his car. Defendant asserted that, to the best of his knowledge, he was in compliance with all the traffic laws and other criminal laws of the State of Illinois at the time of the stop.

On cross-examination, defendant maintained that he was going between 45 and 52 miles per hour before the stop and denied that he was driving at a speed of over 60 miles per hour before the stop. Defendant acknowledged that he accompanied the officer who stopped him to the rear of his car where the officer pointed out that the rear license plate light was not on.

Brian Bone, a Libertyville police officer, testified that at about 1:30 a.m. on June 6, 2000, he was on duty in his squad car patrolling a stretch of Route 45 where the speed limit was 55 miles per hour. Bone observed a white GMC Jimmy coming toward him on Route 45 at a high rate of speed. Bone activated his radar unit but was not able, at first, to get a radar reading on the Jimmy's speed because another vehicle that was near the Jimmy was moving at about the same speed as the Jimmy. Following his initial observation of the cars traveling at a high rate of speed, Bone observed that the brake lights were activated on both the Jimmy and the other car. After that, Bone was able to get a reading on the Jimmy with his radar unit. The radar reading indicated that the Jimmy was traveling 60 miles per hour.

After getting the radar reading on the Jimmy, Bone made a U-turn so that he was traveling northbound on Route 45, the same direction as the two cars. Bone then observed that there was no rear license plate light illuminating the license plate on the Jimmy. After observing the unlit rear license plate light, Bone activated the emergency lights on his squad car and stopped the Jimmy. When the Jimmy stopped, Bone looked more closely at the rear license plate light and confirmed that it was not on. Defendant was the driver and sole occupant of the Jimmy.

On cross-examination, Bone acknowledged that he did not issue a traffic citation to defendant for speeding but only for having an unlit rear license plate light. In the year and a half that he had been assigned to traffic duty, Bone had made hundreds of traffic stops. Bone estimated that only about 10 of the stops were for nothing more than an unlit rear license plate light.

Following the hearing, the trial court found that Bone had a sufficient basis to stop defendant's car because Bone reasonably suspected that defendant had violated two traffic laws. The court stated that the suspected violations were ...


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