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People v. Miles

October 29, 2003


Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 02CF28 Honorable Craig H. DeArmond, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton


Defendant, Johnnie C. Miles, moved to suppress the State's evidence against him because the police had acquired it by violating the fourth amendment (U.S. Const., amend. XIV). After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted the motion. The State appeals, arguing that by requesting identification from defendant, a passenger in a car legally stopped for a traffic violation, the police did not violate the fourth amendment.

The trial court found the police had no probable cause or articulable suspicion that defendant had committed any crime. We accept that pivotal finding because it is not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Efforts to identify defendant extended an otherwise routine traffic stop to as long as half an hour. We hold that the police impermissibly prolonged the stop and increased its confrontational nature, thereby violating the fourth amendment. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's judgment.


The information charged that defendant committed the offense of obstructing justice (720 ILCS 5/31-4(a) (West 2002)) in that with the intent to prevent his apprehension, he lied to a police officer, Troy Wasson, about his identity.

Two witnesses testified at the suppression hearing on July 31, 2002, Wasson and another Danville police officer, Amy Burns.

Burns testified she was patrolling Danville in her squad car on January 16, 2002, at 11:20 p.m., when she pulled over a car driven by Trudy Lott. Defense counsel asked Burns:

"Q. Why did you stop the vehicle?

A. The rear registration light was not functioning."
The car had two occupants, Lott and a passenger, and they started to get out. As Burns approached, she ordered them back into the car. It was dark outside, and Burns did not recall if the inside of the car was illuminated.

Burns spoke with Lott first, asking for her driver's license and proof of insurance. Then she asked defendant, the passenger, for identification. He replied he did not have any identification "on him," whereupon she asked him for his name and date of birth. According to Burns, the stop had lasted, at that point, "[m]aybe not even a minute." Defendant told her his name was David Miles and his date of birth was December 10, 1972. Defense counsel asked Burns:

"Q. Why did you ask the passenger to identify himself?
A. He didn't have a seatbelt on."

According to Burns, Wasson arrived "almost immediately" to back her up. By conferring with headquarters over the radio, Wasson learned that a man named Johnnie C. Miles, with a physical description resembling that of defendant, was wanted on a warrant in Fountain County, Indiana. The prosecutor asked Burns:

"Q. *** From the time you stopped the car until the defendant is actually identified as Johnnie Miles, how long would you say that took?
A. I don't recall. It's been a long time. Maybe five minutes.
Q. Okay. Could it have been as long as half an hour?
A. Could have. I don't know. It took a while for us to get the information from Investigator Hogren and to match him up, and then we requested his [s]ocial [s]security number[.] [A]ll that had to happen."
Wasson testified he heard on the radio that Burns had stopped a vehicle and he went to assist her. When he arrived, Burns was speaking with Lott, the driver. Burns asked Wasson to help identify defendant, the passenger, because she "had [run] [the] information [she had obtained from him] and he had come back [as] [']no record on file.[']" "[A]t that point she was occupied with the driver[,] [and] I went ahead and took over questioning Mr. Miles as far as his identification was." Wasson asked him for his date of birth and social security number. "I ran that [information] *** a different way through [Danville Police] Communications, [and] it still came back [as] [']no record on file,['] and at that point I was contacted over the [handheld] radio by Detective Troy Hogren."

Wasson learned from Hogren that Fountain County had issued an arrest warrant for a Johnnie C. Miles. Hogren gave Wasson the details of the warrant via radio. The physical description in the warrant seemed to match that of defendant. The warrant also stated a social security number, which differed from the one defendant had given by only the two middle digits. Wasson told defendant to get out of the car because he was under arrest. Defendant got out, fled on foot, and the police chased and arrested him.

Wasson estimated that from the moment he arrived until the moment he told defendant to get out of the car, "at the very most 20 minutes" elapsed. "And during the entire time[,] we were continually checking information ...

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