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People v. Cox

December 05, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
ANNE F. COX, APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman

UNPUBLISHED

Defendant, Anne F. Cox, filed a motion to suppress evidence seized by law enforcement personnel during a search of her car and her person following a traffic stop. The circuit court of Wayne County granted the motion. The appellate court affirmed. 318 Ill. App. 3d 161. We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)). For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

BACKGROUND

On July 18, 1998, at approximately 2:21 a.m., Officer Matt McCormick of the Fairfield police department stopped defendant's vehicle because it did not have a rear registration light. At the time of the stop, Officer McCormick called Deputy Dave Zola and asked him to bring his canine, Tango, to the scene. Officer McCormick did not smell cannabis in defendant's vehicle, nor did he have other reasons to request Deputy Zola's assistance at the scene.

Deputy Zola arrived approximately 15 minutes later, while Officer McCormick was writing the traffic ticket. Deputy Zola walked Tango around defendant's vehicle, and Tango alerted to the presence of drugs. The officers had defendant step out of the vehicle. Officer McCormick searched the vehicle and found "possible cannabis seeds and residue" on the floorboard. Deputy Zola then conducted a "pat down" search of defendant and found cannabis on her person. The officers arrested defendant for possession of less than 2.5 grams of a substance containing cannabis.

Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence. Defendant argued that the officers did not have probable cause to conduct the canine sniff, and that the stop for a minor traffic violation was unnecessarily and illegally long. The trial court granted the motion, stating:

"In the instant case, the officer made a traffic stop based upon an observed traffic violation. There was no testimony from the arresting officer that Defendant had a past record, had been involved in drug related activities or that either Defendant or the interior of the vehicle smelled of marijuana or any other controlled substance. The[re] was no outstanding warrant for Defendant's arrest. The officer did not state that the search was the result of a general plan or random pattern of canine searches during traffic stops. In short, the officer's testimony revealed no reasonable basis which would justify the walk around. Moreover, if the walk around was invalid, then the officers had no basis for a pat down search of Defendant; she would have been released without arrest on the traffic ticket."

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court's suppression order. 318 Ill. App. 3d 161. The appellate court observed:

"In this case, the officer lacked reasonable suspicion sufficient to call the canine unit. At the motion-to-suppress hearing, Officer McCormick could point to no fact that aroused his suspicion. Terry and its progeny clearly establish that when an officer investigates based on reasonable suspicion, he must be able to point to articulable facts that gave rise to said suspicion." 318 Ill. App. 3d at 167.

This court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal.

ANALYSIS

As noted above, the circuit court granted defendant's motion to suppress evidence recovered during the search of her vehicle and her person following the traffic stop. Generally, a motion to suppress evidence presents mixed questions of law and fact: the trial court first weighs the evidence and determines the facts surrounding the complained-of conduct, after which it decides whether, as a matter of law, these facts constitute an unconstitutional seizure. People v. Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d 103, 108 (2001); People v. Shapiro, 177 Ill. 2d 519, 524 (1997). A reviewing court accords great deference to the factual findings of the trial court. Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d at 108. However, the reviewing court considers de novo the trial court's ultimate determination to grant or deny the defendant's motion to suppress. Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d at 108; People v. Sorenson, 196 Ill. 2d 425, 431 (2001).

The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const., amend. IV. This provision applies to all seizures of the person, including seizures that involve only a brief detention short of traditional arrest. United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878, 45 L. Ed. 2d 607, 614, 95 S. Ct. 2574, 2578 (1975); People v. Smithers, 83 Ill. 2d 430, 433-34 (1980). Reasonableness under the fourth amendment generally requires a warrant supported by probable cause. People v. Flowers, 179 Ill. 2d 257, 262 (1997); People v. Long, 99 Ill. 2d 219, 227 (1983).

In Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968), the United States Supreme Court recognized a limited exception to the traditional probable cause requirement. The Court held that a police officer, under appropriate circumstances, may briefly detain a person for questioning if the officer reasonably believes that the person has committed, or is about to commit, a crime. Terry, 392 U.S. at 22, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 906-07, 88 S. Ct. at 1880; Flowers, 179 Ill. 2d at 262; Smithers, 83 Ill. 2d at 434.

The conduct constituting the stop under Terry must have been justified at its inception. Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d at 109. A court objectively considers whether, based on the facts available to the police officer, the police action in detaining the defendant was appropriate. To justify the intrusion, the police officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts which, taken together with rational inferences therefrom, reasonably warrant that intrusion. Terry, 392 U.S. at 20-21, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 905-06, 88 S. Ct. at 1879-80; Long, 99 Ill. 2d at 227-28. While the facts supporting the officer's suspicions need not rise to the level of probable cause, they must be based on more than a mere hunch. Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d at 110.

In addition to the requirement that the conduct constituting the stop be justified at its inception, the police officer's action must be reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place. Terry, 392 U.S. at 19-20, 20 L. Ed. 2d at 905, 88 S. Ct. at 1879. As the Court emphasized in Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500, 75 L. Ed. 2d 229, 238, 103 S. Ct. 1319, 1325 (1983) (plurality opinion), "an investigative detention must be temporary and last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop." The State bears the burden of showing that a seizure based on reasonable suspicion was sufficiently limited in scope and duration to satisfy the conditions of an investigative seizure. Royer, 460 U.S. at 500, 75 L. Ed. 2d at 238, 103 S. Ct. at 1326 (plurality opinion); People v. Brownlee, 186 Ill. 2d 501, 519 (1999).

The standard for determining the reasonableness of a Terry investigatory stop has been codified in our Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/107-14 (West 1998)). Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d at 109, Brownlee, 186 Ill. 2d at 518. The same standard is applied in determining the propriety of an investigatory stop under article I, section 6, of the 1970 Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §6). Thomas, 198 Ill. 2d at 109, citing People v. Tisler, 103 Ill. 2d 226, 241-45 (1984) (the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Illinois Constitution is measured by the same standards as are used in defining the protections contained in the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution).

When a police officer observes a driver commit a traffic violation, the officer is justified in briefly detaining the driver to investigate the violation. Sorenson, 196 Ill. 2d at 433; Brownlee, 186 Ill. 2d at 517. The officer may perform some initial inquiries, check the driver's license, and conduct a speedy warrant check. People v. Ortiz, 317 Ill. App. 3d 212, 220 (2000); People v. Easley, 288 Ill. App. 3d 487, 491 (1997); People v. Koutsakis, 272 Ill. App. 3d 159, 163 (1995). If no further suspicion is aroused in the officer following these inquiries, the traffic stop should go no further. Ortiz, 317 Ill. App. 3d at 220; Easley, 288 Ill. App. 3d at 491; Koutsakis, 272 Ill. App. 3d at 163. The officer should issue a warning ticket or a citation, as appropriate, and allow the driver to leave. Koutsakis, 272 Ill. App. 3d at 164.

Turning to the present case, the State notes that Officer McCormick stopped defendant's vehicle because it did not have a rear registration light. The State maintains that Officer McCormick was justified in initiating the traffic stop. The State also maintains that the dog sniff of defendant's vehicle was proper since Deputy Zola and his dog, Tango, arrived at the scene while Officer McCormick was writing the traffic ticket.

Defendant notes that Officer McCormick called Deputy Zola to the scene at the time that Officer McCormick initiated the traffic stop. Officer McCormick did not have any reason to believe that defendant's vehicle contained a controlled substance. According to defendant, the dog sniff was impermissible because Officer McCormick's decision to call Deputy Zola to the scene was not based on a reasonable and articulable suspicion that defendant's vehicle contained a controlled substance. Defendant also notes that the State failed to present evidence regarding Tango's training and reliability. Defendant maintains only an alert by a trained dog ...


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