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People v. Ledesma

June 19, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLEE,
v.
MARCELO LEDESMA ET AL. (GUADALUPE JOSE PEREZ ET AL., APPELLANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Garman

Docket No. 93628-Agenda 3-March 2003.

Following simultaneous traffic stops of two vehicles resulting from an anonymous 911 tip and police observations based on that tip, defendants were charged with delivery of cannabis in violation of section 5(f) of the Cannabis Control Act (Act) (720 ILCS 550/5(f) (West 1998)) and possession of cannabis in violation of section 4(f) of the Act (720 ILCS 550/4(f) (West 1998)). The circuit court of Vermilion County granted a defense motion to suppress as evidence drugs found in one of the vehicles. The appellate court reversed (327 Ill. App. 3d 805), and we granted leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315). We are asked to determine whether the evidence should have been suppressed because the traffic stops in question were based on information obtained in violation of state eavesdropping statutes, federal wiretapping statutes, and constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures contained in the United States and Illinois Constitutions. We are also asked to determine whether the police search of one of the vehicles was conducted pursuant to the driver's consent.

BACKGROUND

Between 11:30 p.m. and 12 a.m. on September 18, 1998, Tilton police officers received a radio dispatch that an anonymous 911 caller reported a "possible drug deal" was to take place in the parking lot of an Aldi store on Georgetown Road in Tilton, Illinois. The anonymous caller stated that he had overheard a cellular phone conversation on his police scanner. The caller stated that one of the vehicles involved in the transaction would be teal-colored. The officers positioned themselves in a parking lot across the road from the Aldi store. As officers watched the Aldi parking lot, a maroon automobile drove into the Aldi lot and then into the parking lot of an adjacent gas station. Officers observed the maroon vehicle pull alongside a parked teal vehicle and stop. The headlights on both vehicles were turned off and they briefly remained parked beside each other. The vehicles then left the gas station parking lot simultaneously and traveled north on Illinois Route 1, where another police vehicle was waiting. Police pulled over the vehicles along Route 1. Marcelo Ledesma was the driver of the teal vehicle and defendant Jose Perez was his passenger. Richard W. Roth, Jr. was the driver of the maroon vehicle and Jeremy A. Edwards was his passenger. After stopping Ledesma's vehicle, police officer Steve Cornett informed Ledesma that he had reason to believe he had engaged in drug-related activity and asked if there were any drugs or alcohol in the vehicle. Ledesma replied that there were none. Officer Cornett then inquired if Ledesma had any objections to Officer Cornett "taking a look" in the vehicle. Ledesma stated he had no objections. After indicating his consent to the search and exiting the vehicle along with Perez, Ledesma inquired into the purpose of the search and, in the words of Officer Cornett, was "kind of hem-hawing around." Ledesma did not expressly withdraw his consent to the search. Officer Cornett's narcotics detection canine "indicated" the presence of narcotics on Perez's legs and the vehicle doors. The canine also indicated on the seat and a bag found on the front passenger floorboard. Officer Cornett opened the bag and discovered what appeared to be a substantial amount of cannabis. Tests confirmed that the substance was marijuana weighing in excess of 2,200 grams.

Upon stopping the vehicles, Officer David Phillips approached the maroon vehicle and asked the driver, Roth, for a driver's license. Roth stated that his license had been revoked and he was immediately placed under arrest for driving with a revoked license. While seated in the front seat of the squad car, Roth advised Officer Phillips that his bond money was underneath the front seat and that he wanted Edwards to get it for him. While Officer Mike Schull reached in to get the bond from under the seat, Officer Phillips, who was standing beside Edwards outside the car, noticed that a large amount of cash had fallen out from underneath the driver's seat. Police discovered $5,000 in cash laying loose underneath the seat.

On September 21, 1998, Ledesma, Perez, Roth, and Edwards were charged with delivery of cannabis in violation of section 5(f) of the Act (720 ILCS 550/5(f) (West 1998)) and possession of cannabis in violation of section 4(f) of the Act (720 ILCS 550/4(f) (West 1998)). Defendants moved to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop. The trial court granted the motion to suppress, holding that a Terry stop (Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968)) was not warranted because there was insufficient independent corroboration of the tip and that police had exceeded Ledesma's consent to search his vehicle. The appellate court reversed, holding that the stop was permissible because there was no violation of state or federal statues or constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. 327 Ill. App. 3d at 810-15. The court also held that the search did not exceed the scope of Ledesma's consent. 327 Ill. App. 3d at 815. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 315 (177 Ill. 2d R. 315).

ANALYSIS

A trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence is subject to reversal only if it is manifestly erroneous. People v. Mitchell, 165 Ill. 2d 211, 230 (1995). As both parties note, de novo review is appropriate, however, when neither facts nor credibility of witnesses is questioned. Mitchell, 165 Ill. 2d at 230. Although the parties may have varying interpretations of the motives of the anonymous caller or the conversation that took place between Ledesma and Officer Cornett, neither party has identified any disputed facts. Therefore, we review de novo the suppression of the evidence.

The Anonymous Tip and Propriety of the Stop

Defendants argue that the evidence should have been suppressed because the sole basis for the traffic stop was based on a "vague and anonymous" 911 call that indirectly provided police with information obtained in violation of state eavesdropping statutes, federal wiretapping legislation, and constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

State Law

Defendants argue that evidence seized during the stop should be suppressed pursuant to the Illinois eavesdropping statute (720 ILCS 5/14-1 et seq. (West 1998)). Section 14-5 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) provides:

"Any evidence obtained in violation of this Article is not admissible in any civil or criminal trial, or any administrative or legislative inquiry or proceeding, nor in any grand jury proceedings; provided, however, that so much of the contents of an alleged unlawfully intercepted, overheard or recorded conversation as is clearly relevant, as determined as a matter of law by the court in chambers, to the proof of such allegation may be admitted into evidence in any criminal trial or grand jury proceeding brought against any person charged with violating any provision of this Article." 720 ILCS 5/14-5 (West 1998).

Section 14-2 of the Code provides in part:

"A person commits eavesdropping when he:

(a) Uses an eavesdropping device to hear or record all or any part of any conversation ***; or

(b) Uses or divulges *** any information which he knows or reasonably should know was obtained through the use of an eavesdropping device." 720 ILCS 5/14-2 (West 1998).

Section 14-3(d) contains a number of exemptions to the activities prohibited under section 14-2. Section 14-3 exempts:

"(d) Recording or listening with the aid of any device to any emergency communication made in the normal course of operations by any federal, state or local law enforcement agency or institutions dealing in emergency services, including, but not limited to, hospitals, clinics, ambulance services, fire fighting agencies, any public utility, emergency repair facility, civilian defense establishment or military installation[.]" 720 ILCS 5/14-3(d) (West 1998).

The Illinois eavesdropping statute defines "conversation" as "any oral communication between 2 or more persons regardless of whether one or more of the parties intended their communication to be of a private nature under circumstances ...


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