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People v. Dent

September 11, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
WALTER DENT, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 01-CF-2343 Honorable James Hackett, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Chapman

PUBLISHED

Walter Dent, the defendant, was arrested on September 6, 2001, and later charged by information with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/5(d) (West 2000)). The defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements and physical evidence obtained by the police. After conducting a hearing on the motion, the circuit court found that the defendant had been illegally seized by the police and the court granted the defendant's motion. The State appealed. The issue for review is whether the circuit court erred in granting the defendant's motion to suppress. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

The defendant was arrested by police on September 6, 2001, and was charged by way of information the next day with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/5(d) (West 2000)). On September 28, 2001, a preliminary hearing was held. Sergeant Richard Gillespie of the Alton, Illinois, police department was the only witness to testify at the hearing.

Sergeant Gillespie testified that he participated in the arrest of the defendant. He said that on September 6, 2001, he and several other officers were assigned a detail that involved going to selected drug locations to perform a "knock-and-talk." Gillespie testified that they were in undercover vehicles when they observed the defendant get out of his vehicle and walk up to an identified drug house. Gillespie and the other officers pulled up behind the defendant and approached him from behind. The defendant was talking on a cell phone at the time and appeared surprised when he turned around to see that there were five or six police officers around him.

Sergeant Gillespie asked the defendant whether he had any dope on him. The defendant responded in the negative. Gillespie then said, "Well, you won't mind me checking." Gillespie testified that the defendant responded that he did not have any drugs and to "go ahead." Gillespie then patted the defendant down, felt a bulge in the lower part of the defendant's left pant leg, and immediately secured the defendant in handcuffs. Fourteen small bags of what he believed was cannabis were removed from the defendant's person.

After the defendant was in custody, Gillespie searched the defendant's vehicle. He said that the vehicle was unsecured with the keys left in the ignition and that the defendant was actually in physical control of the vehicle at the time of the stop. He performed an inventory on the vehicle and found two other bags of what he believed to be marijuana.

On cross-examination, Sergeant Gillespie testified that there was a total of nine officers, four police vehicles, and a transport vehicle involved in the "knock-and-talk" detail. Gillespie said that all nine officers wore their police uniforms, including badges and side arm pistols. Gillespie testified that the defendant walked to the front door walkway of 912 College Avenue after he exited his vehicle. When asked about what happened after that, Gillespie testified as follows:

"Q. [Defense counsel:] How far was he from his car when he was stopped?

A. Twenty-five, thirty feet.

Q. Okay. At any point did he go back to his vehicle before he was arrested?

A. Oh, no, sir.

Q. Now, when *** he was stopped, in what fashion did that happen? Did your officers surround him? Did someone tell him to stop? How did that come about?

A. Well, he was trying to make it in the front door of the house upon seeing me. Once I got close enough to him and [sic] he turned and acted very surprised. He attempted-he can't run because he's been shot from an old gunshot wound. I believe it's his left leg that is a little messed up.

Q. So what did he do?

A. He attempted to open the front door, and I said, ['][W]ait a minute, *** do you have any dope on you[?][']

Q. You told him, as he started to open the front door, to wait a minute?

A. Right.

***

A. And I asked him, ['][D]o you have any dope on you[?][']

Q. At that time where were the other police officers? Were they in the ...


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