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People v. Schmitt

March 30, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JAMES A. SCHMITT, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



[6] Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 02CF948 Honorable Theodore E. Paine, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton

[8]  The State charged defendant, James A. Schmitt, with various drug offenses, but the trial court granted in part his motion to quash his arrest and suppress the evidence against him. Having filed a certificate of impairment, the State appeals, arguing the police had probable cause to stop and search the truck Schmitt was driving. Because we agree with the State, we reverse the quashing of Schmitt's arrest and the suppression of evidence, and we remand this case for further proceedings.

[9]  I. BACKGROUND

[10]   Early in the afternoon on August 13, 2002, Mike Cottrell, a loss-prevention manager at Wal-Mart in Decatur, called the Macon County sheriff's department and reported that a blond, curly-haired man, clad in a gray T-shirt, had just bought two boxes of pseudoephedrine. The man was later identified as Chad A. Hinthorne. When the police arrived, Hinthorne had already departed. He had met two other men outside the store, and the three headed south on State Highway No. 51 in a red Ford pickup truck with black ladder racks and license-plate number 1454 KR. The two other men were later identified as Schmitt and Gary Garland. Schmitt was the driver, although the truck was registered to Hinthorne at an address in El Paso, in Woodford County, some 67 miles north of Decatur.

[11]   Soon afterward, a police officer spotted the truck on State Highway No. 48 and followed it to a business called "The Shop," which specialized in the sale of drug paraphernalia. All three occupants of the truck went into The Shop, and when they reemerged, one of them put something into the truck's toolbox, apparently a purchase.

[12]   The truck then went to Fairview Plaza Shopping Center, and the three got out and entered Ma Belle's Family Restaurant. Shortly afterward, Hinthorne came out of the restaurant and walked to a Dollar General store nearby. A police officer followed him into the store and watched him buy two more boxes of pseudoephedrine. After carrying the two boxes to the truck and stashing them in the toolbox, Hinthorne returned to the restaurant.

[13]   From the restaurant, the trio went north on State Highway No. 48 (with an undercover police officer following) and stopped at another Dollar General store. This time Schmitt entered the store, and a police officer followed him and watched him buy two boxes of pseudoephedrine.

[14]   Thus, within two hours, Hinthorne and Schmitt had bought a total of six boxes of pseudoephedrine. Each box had 20 pills. If one continuously took the maximum dosage--2 pills every 6 hours--one box would have been roughly a 2-1/2-day supply for one person.

[15]   Because of the multiple purchases of pseudoephedrine, the police pulled the pickup truck over and questioned Hinthorne, Schmitt, and Garland on the side of the highway.

[16]   At the hearing on the motion to suppress, the prosecutor asked one of the police officers, James Root:

[17]   "A. In fact, did you later run, did you run a check on Mr. Hinthorne, a warrants, Mr. Garland a warrants check?

[18]   Q. Yes. Mr. Garland was wanted."

[19]   A search of the truck revealed not only the six boxes of pseudoephedrine but also four lithium batteries in the glove box and a container of acetone behind the driver's seat. The police had no warrant, and neither the owner of the truck, Hinthorne, nor the driver, Schmitt, had consented to the search.

[20]   Later, in an interview at the police station, Garland divulged that methamphetamine was hidden under the ashtray of the truck. After obtaining a search warrant, the police searched the truck a second time and found the methamphetamine under the ashtray. They also searched Hinthorne's house in El Paso and ...


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