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People v. Parra

October 12, 2004

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
FELIPE D. PARRA, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 02-CF-1774. Honorable Timothy Q. Sheldon, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Grometer

PUBLISHED

Defendant, Felipe D. Parra, was indicted for unlawful use of a weapon (720 ILCS 5/24--1(a)(4) (West 2002)) and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (720 ILCS 5/24--1.6(a)(1) (West 2002)). He moved to quash his arrest and suppress the evidence. The trial court granted the motion. After the State's motion to reconsider was denied, the State filed a certificate of impairment and appealed. We affirm.

On August 2, 2002, Officer Jason Russell effected a traffic stop of a vehicle that had failed to activate its turn signal prior to making a turn at an intersection, failed to stop at a stop sign, and rapidly accelerated, causing its tires to screech. Defendant was the driver of the vehicle, and a passenger was also in the front seat of the car. Russell approached the vehicle, informed defendant of the reasons for the stop, and asked defendant for his driver's license and insurance information. Russell observed no furtive movements by defendant, and neither defendant nor the passenger was acting suspiciously. As defendant opened the glove box in order to obtain his insurance information, Russell observed several purple latex gloves in the glove box. Russell asked defendant his occupation, and defendant replied that he was a truck driver. Russell believed that the gloves were not job related. As defendant opened his wallet to retrieve his driver's license, Russell observed a firearm owner's identification (FOID) card in defendant's wallet.

After obtaining defendant's license and insurance information, Russell ran a computer check and discovered that defendant's license was valid and that there were no outstanding warrants. The computer check did not indicate that defendant was involved in gang activity. Russell had no other information that defendant or the passenger was a gang member.

At about the same time, Russell called for backup because he suspected that a firearm was in the vehicle. His suspicion was based on his observation of the FOID card and the latex gloves, the fact that recently he had been advised that gang members were using latex gloves during the commission of crimes involving handguns, and the fact that the traffic stop had occurred in an area of high gang activity. Patrolman Todd Edwards arrived on the scene, and Russell told Edwards of his suspicions. Russell and Edwards approached defendant's vehicle, Russell asked defendant to step out of the car, and defendant complied. Russell asked defendant if he had any weapons or drugs on his person. Defendant replied that he did not. Russell asked to search defendant, defendant agreed, and Russell conducted a pat-down search. He found no contraband or weapons. Russell then asked defendant if he had any guns, drugs, or other illegal items in the vehicle. Defendant stated that he did not. Russell asked defendant for permission to search the vehicle for such items, and defendant agreed. Russell proceeded to search the car, eventually found a gun hidden under the dashboard, and arrested defendant.

Defendant moved to quash his arrest and suppress the evidence, arguing that he was unconstitutionally seized when Russell asked him for consent to search his person and his vehicle. The court agreed and granted the motion.

On appeal, the State argues that the questioning and search of defendant did not result in an unconstitutional seizure because the officers had a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. In reviewing a ruling on a motion to suppress, we reverse the trial court's findings of fact only if they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. See People v. Rush, 319 Ill. App. 3d 34, 38 (2001). We review de novo the ultimate question of whether reasonable suspicion justified the stop and the officer's subsequent actions. See Rush, 319 Ill. App. 3d at 38-39. Here, the material facts are undisputed, and thus we address only the ultimate question.

The temporary detention of drivers or passengers during a vehicle stop constitutes a "seizure" of "persons" within the meaning of the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution. People v. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d 220, 225 (2003). Therefore, vehicle stops are subject to the fourth amendment's requirement of reasonableness. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d at 226. Because a traffic stop is more analogous to a Terry investigative stop (see Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L.Ed. 2d 889, 88 S.Ct. 1868 (1968)) than to a formal arrest, the reasonableness of a traffic stop is analyzed under Terry principles. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d at 226.

Under Terry, a law enforcement officer may, within the limits of the fourth amendment, conduct a brief investigative stop of individuals, absent probable cause to arrest, provided that the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d at 227. If a detention exceeds what is permissible as a Terry stop, a subsequent consent to a search may be found to be tainted by the illegality. People v. Brownlee, 186 Ill. 2d 501, 519 (1999). A Terry analysis involves a dual inquiry: (1) whether the officer's action was justified at its inception, and (2) whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the interference in the first place. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d at 228. Here, there is no issue as to the lawfulness of the initial stop of the vehicle. Rather, this appeal concerns only the lawfulness of the officer's conduct following the initial stop. Therefore, only the second prong of the Terry analysis is at issue.

In determining whether police questioning during the course of a traffic stop satisfies the second prong of the Terry analysis, we follow the framework set out in Gonzalez. Under that framework, we must first determine whether the questioning was related to the initial purpose of the stop. If so, no fourth amendment violation occurred. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d at 235. If the questioning was not reasonably related to the purpose of the stop, we must next consider whether the law enforcement officer had a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity that justified the questioning. If the questioning was justified, no fourth amendment violation occurred. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d at 235. Finally, in the absence of a reasonable connection to the purpose of the stop or a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct, we must consider whether, in light of all the circumstances and common sense, the questioning impermissibly prolonged the detention or changed the fundamental nature of the stop. Gonzalez, 204 Ill. 2d at 235.

Applying the Gonzalez framework, we hold that Russell's questioning fails to satisfy the second prong of the Terry analysis. First, Russell's question regarding contraband and request for consent to search defendant and his vehicle were unrelated to the initial purpose of the stop, the three traffic violations.

Because the questions were not related to the initial purpose of the stop, we next consider whether Russell had a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal conduct that justified the questioning. The State argues that the questioning was justified based on (1) Russell's observation of the latex gloves, (2) his observation of the FOID card, and (3) the fact that the stop occurred in a "high crime area." We hold that these facts, viewed individually or taken together, did not provide Russell with a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity that justified his questioning of defendant.

First, Russell's observation of the latex gloves did not support a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Even though Russell had been advised that gang members were using latex gloves during the commission of handgun crimes, he had no information that defendant or the passenger was a gang member. Additionally, as defendant argues in his appellate brief, latex gloves have many legitimate uses, ...


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