Appeal from the Circuit Court , of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, No. 08--CM--1080 Honorable James E. Egan, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wright
JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justice Schmidt specially concurred, with opinion.
Justice McDade dissented, with opinion.
On February 28, 2008, police officers issued defendant a citation for failure to wear a seat belt as a passenger, arrested another passenger for possession of marijuana, and issued various traffic citations to the driver of the vehicle. After receiving his seat belt ticket, defendant began yelling at and threatening the police officers. Police officers repeatedly ordered defendant to leave the scene and arrested him for obstructing a peace officer when he failed to comply with the officers' directives. The court found defendant guilty of the Class A misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer and defendant appeals the court's ruling. We affirm.
On February 28, 2008, defendant occupied the front passenger seat in a vehicle stopped by Joliet police officers for improper lane usage and failure to signal. The officers issued citations to the driver and also issued a citation to defendant for failure to wear his seat belt. Additionally, the officers arrested a passenger in the rear seat for unlawful possession of cannabis. Eventually, after defendant and another occupant of the vehicle refused to leave the scene after the officers repeatedly ordered them to do so, the police also arrested defendant and the other individual for obstructing a peace officer, a Class A misdemeanor.
In an amended complaint, the State alleged that, on February 28, 2008, "defendant knowingly obstructed the performance of Jeffrey German of an authorized act within his official capacity, being the investigation of [defendant], knowing Jeffrey German to be a peace officer engaged in the execution of his official duties, in that he refused to exit the vehicle after being ordered to do so and failed to disperse from the scene after being ordered to do so." The court appointed the public defender to represent defendant. After defendant waived his right to a jury trial, the court held a bench trial on November 21, 2008.
The State's first witness, Officer Jeffrey German, testified that he was employed by the Joliet police department on February 28, 2008, and was on duty that date. Officer German stated that he and other officers conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle in which defendant was a passenger on that date. Officer German and the other officers were dressed in "plain clothes" at that time, but they were wearing their "black tactical vests" with police writing on the front and back, as well as wearing their duty belts bearing their badges. According to Officer German, they also identified themselves as police officers at the time of the traffic stop.
The officer stated that, when they stopped the driver of vehicle for improper lane usage and failure to signal a turn, they observed defendant was not wearing his seat belt as the front seat passenger. Officer German asked defendant to state his name, but defendant remained silent. After several requests for defendant's name and identification, to no avail, the officers asked all of the occupants to exit the vehicle. At that point, Officer German testified that they arrested the rear seat passenger for unlawful possession of cannabis. While waiting for the arrival of a tow truck, the officers ordered the remaining individuals, including defendant, to re-enter their vehicle. Officer German said that officers in two marked squads also came to the scene to assist the plain clothes officers.
Officer German testified that the officers decided that the other occupants of the vehicle should leave the scene rather than wait for the tow truck. After the officers told the other occupants to disperse, Officer German said defendant did not leave the area. According to Officer German, between himself and three other officers, they ordered defendant and the other occupants to leave the area "10, 15 times *** at which time they were being very irate, yelling profanities at us, [and] threatening us." Officer German testified that defendant said, "If you weren't a badge, we would beat your ass." Defendant then walked to another vehicle, driven by the mother of one of the occupants of the stopped vehicle, who came to the scene to give the occupants a ride home.
Defendant and another passenger reapproached the stopped vehicle while the officers were searching the vehicle, and both yelled at and said profanities to the officers, telling them to "F*** off." Officer German and the other police officers repeatedly ordered defendant and the other passenger to leave the area and they both refused and continued yelling profanities at the officers.
On crossexamination, Officer German said defendant initially did not get out of the stopped car when he was ordered to exit the vehicle, nor did defendant initially tell the officers his name upon request, but he eventually complied with both directives from the officer. Officer German patted defendant down for weapons and issued defendant a citation for failure to wear his seat belt. After the officers arrested the rear seat passenger and requested a tow truck for the vehicle, the officers had the remaining occupants wait in the vehicle. According to Officer German, as they were getting ready to tow the stopped vehicle, the mother of one of the occupants, Mr. White, came to the scene to transport the occupants home, and they were told to leave the scene. Officer German stated that, between the other officers and him, the occupants were repeatedly told 5 to 10 times to leave the area.
Officer Arthur Arellano next testified that he worked for Joliet police department on February 28, 2008, and he was present at the traffic stop involving defendant. Defendant and two other individuals were sitting outside of the car when he arrived at the scene and other police officers were searching the vehicle in which defendant had been riding. After the officers finished searching the vehicle, the officers told defendant and the other occupants to get back into the vehicle. After being told to exit the vehicle again, defendant and the others remained in the street near the stop. Officer Arellano testified that defendant was told to get out of the street and leave the scene several times and did not comply with that order. Arellano said defendant was agitated and yelling when they told him to disperse or leave the area. Specifically, the officer said defendant stood in the street and yelled profanities at the police officers. Officer Arellano said he personally told defendant to leave the scene "at least ten ...