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People v. Harris

August 26, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JARVIS HARRIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 02 CR 26489. The Honorable Vincent M. Gaughan Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman

After a bench trial, defendant was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, pursuant to section 401 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (the Act) (720 ILCS 570/401(d) (West 2002)). On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) the police lacked probable cause to arrest him; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction because the State did not establish the proper chain of custody of the tested materials; (3) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction because the State did not establish his intent to deliver the contraband; and (4) the trial court erred by failing to conduct a Krankel inquiry (People v. Krankel, 102 Ill. 2d 181 (1984) into his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.

The court heard evidence on defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence simultaneously with the trial. Officer Dahl testified that around 6:30 p.m. on September 17, 2002, he conducted a surveillance with Officer Segura at 2237 South Hamlin in Chicago. He observed defendant from across the street, approximately 40 or 50 feet away. On three separate occasions during the surveillance, Dahl observed the following pattern of behavior. An unknown male would approach defendant and engage in a brief conversation. During the conversation, the man would tender to defendant an unknown amount of money. After accepting the money, defendant would reach into his right-hand pants pocket and retrieve a small object approximately the size of a quarter which he would then give to the man. Dahl stated that he did not know the object's color. Dahl testified that he had been a police officer for more than three years and had observed over 500 narcotics transactions. He is familiar with what narcotics look like when they are packaged for sale. Based on his experience, Dahl believed that defendant had engaged in three narcotics transactions.

In a marked police car, Dahl and his partner approached defendant while he was standing on the sidewalk. The officers walked over to defendant and began to talk to him. Defendant talked to them normally and did not attempt to flee or make any furtive movements. After talking a few minutes, the officers had defendant walk over to the car so they could pat him down to make sure he was not armed. The officers conducted the protective pat down based on what they had observed during their surveillance. After the pat down, they did not believe defendant had a gun. However, Dahl felt a few lumps on the outside of defendant's right pants pocket that he believed were narcotics. Dahl he reached into the pocket and retrieved two ziplock plastic bags containing a white, rock-like substance that he believed was cocaine. Defendant was then taken into custody. The other three men that the officers had observed in the transactions were not arrested.

Dahl kept the confiscated items on his person until he and his partner got to the station. At that point, he gave the items to his partner. Dahl observed his partner inventory the items as number 10030503. Dahl also observed his partner conduct a custodial search of defendant which revealed that he was carrying $60.

The parties offered by way of stipulation that, if called to testify, forensic chemist Stevan Sarac would testify that he is qualified as an expert in the area of forensic chemistry. He received two items sealed under inventory number 10030503 and performed tests commonly accepted in the scientific community for ascertaining the presence of a controlled substance. In his opinion, the items tested positive for .1 gram of cocaine.

At the close of the State's evidence, defendant moved for a directed verdict, which the court denied. The defense then rested. The court simultaneously denied defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence (motion to suppress) and declared defendant guilty of the crime charged. Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of the motion to suppress and a motion for new trial. Each was denied. Defendant was sentenced to the Cook County sheriff's boot camp incarceration program. This appeal follows.

Probable Cause

We first consider defendant's argument that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Generally, a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress will not be disturbed unless it is manifestly erroneous. People v. Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d 7, 13 (2003). This deferential standard applies when the disposition of the suppression motion turns on factual determinations and credibility assessments. However, where no dispute exists as to the facts or witness credibility, the trial court's ruling will be reviewed de novo. Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d at 13. In the present case, the trial court found Officer Dahl's testimony credible. Such finding was not manifestly erroneous. Accordingly, we conduct de novo review under the officer's version of events. See Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d at 13.

Defendant argues that the court should have granted his motion to suppress because the police lacked probable cause to arrest him. Probable cause to arrest exists when the totality of the circumstances known to the officer at the time of the arrest would lead a reasonable, cautious person, standing in the shoes of the officer, to conclude that a crime has been committed and the defendant was the person who committed the crime. People v. Sims, 192 Ill. 2d 592, 614 (2000). However, something more than mere hunch or suspicion of criminal activity is required. People v. Little, 322 Ill. App. 3d 607, 612 (2001). Courts, guided by common sense and practical considerations, must determine whether probable cause existed based on the facts known to the officers at the time the arrest was made. People v. Tisler, 103 Ill. 2d 226, 236-37 (1984). A police officer's factual knowledge, based on prior law-enforcement experience, is relevant to determining whether probable cause existed. Tisler, 103 Ill. 2d at 237.

After examining the totality of the circumstances known to Officer Dahl at the time defendant was apprehended, we conclude that he had probable cause to effectuate an arrest. Dahl testified that he observed defendant engage in several transactions in which defendant would accept money from a person; reach into his right-hand pants pocket; retrieve a quarter-sized object; then hand the object to the person. He further testified that he had observed over 500 drug transactions and was familiar with how drugs were packaged for sale. Drawing on his experience, Dahl believed that defendant was engaged in drug activity.

Defendant contends that the activity the police observed in their surveillance could not elicit more than a suspicion or a hunch of suspected criminality. He argues that People v. Little, 322 Ill. App. 3d 607 (2001), and People v. Odom, 83 Ill. App. 3d 1022 (1980), support his position. We find both cases distinguishable. Specifically, in Little, while the court found that a motion to quash arrest and suppress would have had a reasonable probability of success under facts similar to those in the instant case, such was considered in the context of an effective assistance of counsel claim. Little, 322 Ill. App. 3d at 613. Thus, the court employed a significantly different standard of review than that which we employ here. The Little court noted this distinction, qualifying its holding as follows:

"We are mindful of the limited nature of our inquiry on appeal and we do not pass on the question of whether such a motion would have been granted if presented by defendant's counsel. We simply hold that such a motion would have enjoyed a reasonable probability of success. Resolution of whether the arresting officers in this case were apprised of sufficient facts and information, in light of the circumstances surrounding defendant's activities, so as to ...


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