Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit Will County, Illinois. No. 02-CF-525. Honorable Rozak, Daniel, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton
Defendant, Lee Blankenship, was charged by indictment with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, in violation of section 5/ 24-1.6(a)(3)(C) of the Criminal Code. 720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(3)(C) (West 2002). Defendant's pretrial motions to quash the arrest, suppress evidence, and exclude evidence of prior convictions were denied. Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted. Defendant appeals the denial of his pretrial motions, and we affirm.
On March 27, 2002, Officer Terry Higgins of the Joliet Police Department was stopped at a red light behind a green Ford Escort. Though he had not observed any traffic violation, Higgins entered the Escort's license plate number into the computer in his car. The computer check revealed that the car was registered to Sharmel Blankenship, defendant's wife. A vehicle note, or v-note, which had been entered by another Joliet police officer on February 27, 2002, also appeared on the computer. The v-note indicated that defendant frequently drove the Escort, gave a description of defendant, and indicated that as of February 27, 2002, defendant's license was suspended. Higgins observed that the driver of the car matched the description of defendant in the v-note and pulled the Escort over. Defendant was driving the car and was arrested for driving with a suspended license. Police officers searched the car and found a handgun in the glove compartment.
Defendant was charged with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon. He filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress all evidence, including the gun. In support of the motion, defendant argued that Higgins could not reasonably identify the driver of the car prior to the traffic stop and, therefore, had no reasonable articulable suspicion that defendant was driving the car. The trial court denied the motion.
Defendant also moved to prevent the State from introducing four prior convictions to impeach defendant if he testified. The trial judge granted the motion on two of the convictions, but denied the motion as to the other two, which were both for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon. When defendant testified at trial, the State introduced both prior convictions to impeach defendant.
Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and sentenced to 22 years imprisonment.
Defendant first argues that the computer check of his license plate was an improper search, violating the federal and Illinois Constitutions. U.S. Const., amend. IV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §6. The State responds that defendant has waived this issue because he did not raise it in the trial court. To preserve an issue for review, a defendant must object to the alleged error at trial and in a post-trial motion. People v. Enoch, 122 Ill. 2d 176, 186 (1988) A defendant may not argue on appeal that a motion to suppress should have been granted for reasons not specified in the motion and not argued in the trial court. People v. Johnson, 250 Ill. App. 3d 887, 893 (1993).
Although defendant did challenge the propriety of the traffic stop, his challenge was based on Higgins' inability to determine that the driver of the car was the same person described in the v-note. Defendant did not argue that the computer check itself was improper. Because defendant did not properly preserve this issue for appeal, it is waived.
Notwithstanding the waiver issue, we choose to consider defendant's argument on its merits. We review the trial court's determination regarding the reasonableness of a warrantless search de novo. People v. Perez, 288 Ill. App. 3d 1037, 1043 (1997).
Police may conduct a computer check of a license plate without first observing a traffic violation. People v. Brand, 71 Ill. App. 3d 698, 699 (1979). However, defendant argues that the information revealed as a result of such computer checks should be limited. He asks us to adopt the rule announced by the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Donis, 723 A.2d 35 (N.J. 1998). In that case, the court held that when conducting computer checks of license plates, police officers should not have access to a driver's personal information unless the computer check first indicates a problem with the car's registration or the owner's license.
In Donis, two defendants had been stopped by police officers after computer checks of their license plates revealed that the registered owners of the cars had suspended licenses. The court affirmed that police may conduct a computer check of a vehicle's license plate even though no violation has occurred. However, the court was concerned about the type of information available to officers conducting a computer check of a vehicle. After entering a vehicle's license plate number into the computer, the officer had access to the registered owner's name, drivers license number, date of birth, address, social security number, height, weight, the expiration date of the license, and whether the license was suspended. The court determined that automatically disclosing much of this personal information ...