Appeal from Circuit Court of Vermilion County No. 04CF617 Honorable Thomas J. Fahey, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton
A police officer stopped defendant, Alfred Roberson, for a traffic violation. Roberson had a passenger, Anthony Evans. The officer asked Evans for his name, Evans told him, and the officer checked for any outstanding warrants for Evans's arrest. Upon learning of such a warrant, he arrested Evans. In a search of the car incident to the arrest, the officer found contraband, whereupon he arrested Roberson, too. The State charged Roberson with possession of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 2004)) and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(c)(2) (West 2004)).
Roberson moved to suppress the evidence, and the trial court granted the motion on the authority of People v. Harris, 207 Ill. 2d 515, 802 N.E.2d 219 (2003), vacated & remanded, Illinois v. Harris, 543 U.S. 1135, 161 L.Ed. 2d 94, 125 S.Ct. 1292 (2005), apparently unaware that the Supreme Court of the United States vacated Harris eight days earlier. The State appeals, arguing we should reverse the trial court's judgment for the same reason the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Harris, namely, the judgment is inconsistent with Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 160 L.Ed. 2d 842, 125 S.Ct. 834 (2005). We agree with the State's argument. Because the warrant check on Evans violated no constitutionally protected interest in privacy, it did not change the fundamental nature of the traffic stop. Therefore we reverse the trial court's order granting Roberson's motion to suppress evidence and quash his arrest, and we remand this case for further proceedings.
Roberson moved to suppress the evidence on the ground that he never consented to a search of his car and the search was not incident to his own arrest. In a hearing on the motion on March 2, 2005, defense counsel told the trial court:
"MR. CLARK: Judge, actually [the prosecutor] and I have agreed to stipulate. This hearing was held--
THE COURT: On the other guy.
MR. BRINEGAR [(prosecutor)]: February 15[,] .
MR. CLARK: --on the co-[d]efendant. The [c]court heard the evidence at that time from the officer who would have testified in this case. The testimony would be precisely the same, and I believe that Mr. Brinegar is also conceding that the [c]court would rule exactly the same way based on the Harris case.
MR. BRINEGAR: Well, I'm conceding that there's a high likelihood that the [c]court would. The facts could be stipulated[-]to that[,] I believe[,] there was a valid traffic stop. The sole reason for the search of the car, however, was the officer's questioning of the passenger, Anthony Evans, which[,] under Harris[,] is impermissible, and the [c]court so found. The subsequent search after the questioning of Evans, discovering that he was wanted on a warrant--
THE COURT: Yeah, this guy hadn't done anything, had he?
MR. CLARK: Speeding ticket.
THE COURT: Speeding ticket.
MR. BRINEGAR: Right. He was the driver of the car. Dennis Rogers thought he recognized Anthony Evans, asked him his name. He confirmed he was Anthony Evans.
Rogers checked for warrants on Evans. There was an outstanding warrant. Then[,] after placing Evans under arrest, the car was searched. Contraband was found between the front passenger seat and the armrest in the center of the seat.
THE COURT: Right. Right. Okay.
MR. BRINEGAR: And the only thing that Roberson had done is be the driver of a car that was stopped on what everybody appears to agree was a valid traffic stop. Nothing was found on Roberson.
MR. CLARK: It's our contention--our contention is[,] for a speeding ticket[,] he never should have been asked out of the vehicle. He never should have been patted down, and the passenger compartment of the vehicle never should have been searched.