The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge
This matter is before the court on Defendant Reginald D.
Guice's ("Guice") motion to suppress evidence. For the reasons
stated below, we deny the motion to suppress evidence.
Two Chicago Police officers ("Officers") claim to have seen
Guice and another unidentified individual in a vehicle
("Vehicle") traveling in reverse the wrong way on a public
street. The Officers claim to have pursued the Vehicle to a
parking lot where they saw the driver flee the Vehicle while
leaving the Vehicle's motor running. The Officers then arrested
Guice who remained in the passenger seat of the Vehicle. The Officers claim to have found a handgun under
Guice's right thigh and found three additional handguns in the
trunk of the Vehicle. Guice has moved to suppress the evidence
recovered as a result of the arrest. On April 29, 2005, we held
an evidentiary hearing addressing this motion.
Guice argues that the driver of the Vehicle did not violate any
traffic laws and that the Officers did not notice the vehicle
until it was already stopped in the parking lot. Guice argues
that the Officers therefore lacked probable cause to approach his
vehicle and make a traffic stop. The Officers presented credible
testimony to the court which indicated that the officers observed
the Vehicle traveling east-bound on Congress Parkway which is a
one-way street, on which only west-bound traffic is permitted.
The officers presented credible testimony that indicated that
when the occupants of the Vehicle caught sight of the police car,
the vehicle fled in an erratic manner. The evidence also
indicated that the arresting officers pursued the vehicle to a
parking lot and that the officers saw the driver of the Vehicle
flee into a nearby building while holding his side. The Officers
also presented credible testimony that indicated that the Vehicle
was parked in a corner area of the parking lot that was not specifically designated for parking.
Guice argues that there are inconsistencies in the police
records and the Officers' testimony such as a statement on the
arrest report that Guice was traveling on Van Buren Street rather
than Congress Parkway. However, the Officers provided credible
testimony that indicated that Van Buren and Congress Parkway run
parallel to each other and intersect at one point which would
explain the Officers' misidentification of the street name in the
police report. The Officers also provided credible testimony that
revealed that such errors were inadvertent mistakes. The mistakes
alleged by Guice merely relate to misidentifications of street
addresses and street names. Other than the minor
misidentifications in the police records, Guice failed to show
that the Officers' testimony was inaccurate. At the evidentiary
hearing, the Officers presented credible testimony that indicated
exactly what they saw on the date in question and have reasonably
explained the minor discrepancies in the police reports.
Although, Guice points to some minor differences in the Officers'
testimony, Guice fails to show that there are any material
differences in the Officers' testimony.
On the other hand, Guice's version of the events are entirely
incredible. According to Guice, the driver of the vehicle simply
went into the adjacent building to see his girlfriend. Guice
claims that when the Officers approached the Vehicle, Guice was
sitting in the Vehicle with the engine running at 4:00 a.m. in a
high crime area. We did not find Guice's testimony at the
evidentiary hearing to be credible. In summation, we find the Officers' testimony to be credible on the
traffic stop issue and Guice's testimony not to be credible on
that issue. Therefore, we find that the evidence shows that the
arresting officers had probable cause to make a traffic stop of
the Vehicle. See U.S. v. Hernandez-Rivas, 348 F.3d 595, 599
(7th Cir. 2003) (stating that "[t]raffic violations give
police the necessary probable cause to stop the vehicle.").
Guice also argues that the scope of the search was excessive.
In accordance with Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968), a law
enforcement officer "may, consistent with the Fourth Amendment,
conduct a brief, investigatory stop if the officer has a
reasonable suspicion supported by articulable facts that
`criminal activity may be afoot.'" U.S. v. Hendricks,
319 F.3d 993, 1001 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting Terry, 392 U.S. at 30).
In order to determine whether an officer's suspicion was
reasonable the court must "evaluate the totality of the
circumstances as they appeared to the officer at the time of the
stop." Id. (quoting United States v. Ocampo, 890 F.2d 1363,
1368 (7th Cir. 1989)).
In the instant action, the Officers observed the driver of the
Vehicle violate a traffic law, which provided probable cause to
stop the Vehicle and question its occupants. U.S. v. Moore,
375 F.3d 580, 583 (7th Cir. 2004) (finding that officers had
probable cause for a Terry stop because officers observed car
making traffic violations). In addition, the evidence in this case shows that
the Officers saw the Vehicle flee from them in an erratic manner
and the driver of the Vehicle flee on foot as the Officers
approached. Taking the above facts into consideration along with
the fact that the area in which these events occurred was a high
crime area, we find that the Officers had reasonable suspicion to
approach the vehicle with their guns drawn and conduct a pat down
search of Guice. In addition, because of the circumstances, the
Officers had sufficient reasons to conduct a pat down search of
the passenger of the Vehicle. Hernandez-Rivas, 348 F.3d at 599.
Officer Mario Acosta ("Acosta") claims that when conducting the
pat down search, he found a gun concealed under Guice's right
thigh. The search was also properly conducted in the passenger
compartment of the vehicle where a weapon could be reached by
Guice. U.S. v. Arnold, 388 F.3d 237, 239 (7th Cir. 2004).
Once the Officers had discovered that Guice illegally possessed a
firearm and based upon the other circumstances involving the
arrest, the Officers were justified in a belief that the trunk of
the Vehicle might contain weapons or evidence of other illegal
activity. U.S. v. Washburn, 383 F.3d 638, 641 (7th Cir.
2004). The Officers also had authorization to conduct an
inventory search of the Vehicle, including the trunk of the
Vehicle. See U.S. v. Wimbush, 337 F.3d 947, 951 (7th Cir.
2003) (stating that a warrantless search of a car can be
conducted after an arrest and a vehicle is taken into custody "in
order to secure or protect the car and its contents.").
Therefore, we deny Guice's motion to suppress. CONCLUSION
Based on the foregoing analysis, we deny Guice' motion ...