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The People of the State of Illinois v. Lewis C. Fitzpatrick

November 3, 2011


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. Honorable George Bridges, Judge, Presiding. No. 09-CF-2926

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zenoff

JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Bowman and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 Following a stipulated bench trial in the circuit court of Lake County, defendant, Lewis C. Fitzpatrick, was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to a three-year prison term. On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. He further argues that the trial court erred in ordering him to pay $750 to reimburse the Lake County public defender for services performed before he retained a private attorney. We affirm the denial of the motion to quash and suppress. We vacate the order requiring defendant to reimburse the public defender and we remand for a hearing to determine defendant's ability to pay for the public defender's services.

¶ 2 Defendant was placed under arrest after a police officer observed him walking in the middle of a public road on July 23, 2009. Section 11-1007 of the Illinois Vehicle Code provides that, where a sidewalk is provided and its use is practicable, a pedestrian may not walk upon the adjacent roadway. 625 ILCS 5/11-1007(a) (West 2008). Where no sidewalk is provided a pedestrian must walk on the shoulder as far as practicable from the edge of the roadway. 625 ILCS 5/11-1007(b) (West 2008). Where neither a sidewalk nor a shoulder is available, a pedestrian must walk as near as practicable to an outside edge of the roadway. 625 ILCS 5/11-1007(c) (West 2008). A violation of section 11-1007 is a petty offense (625 ILCS 5/11-202 (West 2008)).*fn1 (According to the arresting officer's testimony at the hearing on defendant's motion to quash and suppress, defendant's conduct also violated an unspecified ordinance.) The arresting officer searched defendant's pockets at the scene but found nothing. Defendant was searched again at the police station, and cocaine was discovered in his sock.

¶ 3 Defendant argues on appeal that a custodial arrest for a petty offense violates our state constitution's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 6). In Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, 532 U.S. 318 (2001), the United States Supreme Court held that a custodial arrest for a misdemeanor punishable by a fine only does not run afoul of the United States Constitution's prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. At issue in this appeal is whether the corresponding provision of our state constitution should be interpreted the same way. This court has expressed divergent views on the issue.

¶ 4 The constitutionality of a custodial arrest for a petty offense was a tangential issue in People v. Moorman, 369 Ill. App. 3d 187 (2006), which was decided by a divided panel of this court. The majority took the view that our supreme court's holdings in two post-Atwater cases-People v. Cox, 202 Ill. 2d 462 (2002), and People v. Jones, 215 Ill. 2d 261 (2005)-were "inconsistent with the central holding of Atwater." Moorman, 369 Ill. App. 3d at 197. However, in People v. Taylor, 388 Ill. App. 3d 169 (2009), a different panel of this court held that our state constitution places no greater limits than does the United States Constitution on a police officer's authority to arrest one who has committed a petty offense.*fn2

¶ 5 In Cox, a police officer stopped the defendant's vehicle because it did not have a rear registration light. Although there was nothing to indicate that the defendant was involved in any drug-related activity, the officer requested that another officer bring a drug-sniffing dog to the scene. The dog arrived about 15 minutes later and alerted to the presence of drugs. The defendant was frisked and her vehicle was searched. The Cox court observed:

"When a police officer observes a driver commit a traffic violation, the officer is justified in briefly detaining the driver to investigate the violation. [Citations.] The officer may perform some initial inquiries, check the driver's license, and conduct a speedy warrant check. [Citations.] If no further suspicion is aroused in the officer following these inquiries, the traffic stop should go no further. [Citations.] The officer should issue a warning ticket or a citation, as appropriate, and allow the driver to leave. [Citation.]" Cox, 202 Ill. 2d at 468.

¶ 6 The Cox court reasoned that bringing the drug-sniffing dog to the scene unreasonably prolonged the detention. Id. at 470. The majority in Moorman read the above language as an implicit rejection of Atwater. The majority noted that the Cox court was aware of Atwater, which was discussed in a dissent by Justice Thomas. Justice Thomas lamented that a 15-minute time limit on traffic stops would lead officers to exercise their authority under Atwater to take petty offenders into custody, with such an arrest serving as a pretext to search the arrestee's person and vehicle. In Taylor, this court found the Moorman majority's reasoning unpersuasive because "[t]he mere lack of an explanation in Cox as to how its decision was consistent with Atwater does not lead to the conclusion that the supreme court found that it was not the law in this state." Taylor, 388 Ill. App. 3d at 177. We agree. In Moorman, the majority inferred that the Cox majority had shrugged off the dissent's concerns without comment because the Cox majority concluded that the premise of the dissent's argument-that custodial arrests for petty offenses are permissible in Illinois-was faulty. On the other hand, the Cox majority might have agreed with the dissent's understanding of Atwater, but might nonetheless have been less troubled than the dissent about the mischief (an epidemic of pretextual arrests) that might ensue as a result of its decision. It is possible only to speculate why the Cox majority was unmoved by the dissent's argument.

¶ 7 In Jones, our supreme court indicated that, although a police officer had probable cause to stop the defendant for a minor traffic violation, the officer did not have authority to search the defendant or the vehicle. The Jones court relied in part on Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113 (1998), which held that a police officer could not conduct a search after issuing a citation in connection with a routine traffic stop. Citing Knowles, the Jones court stated, "Stopping an automobile for a minor traffic violation does not, by itself, justify a search of the detainee's person or vehicle. The officer must reasonably believe that he or she is confronting a situation more serious than a routine traffic violation." Jones, 215 Ill. 2d at 271.*fn3 Noting that an officer who makes an arrest is authorized to search the person of the arrestee (see Chimel v. California, 395 U.S. 752 (1969)), the majority in Moorman reasoned that, in Jones, the officer's lack of authority to conduct a search "necessarily means that he also lacked the authority to arrest the defendant." Moorman, 369 Ill. App. 3d at 198. However, in Taylor, this court disagreed, correctly observing that "since the officer in Jones did not initially arrest the defendant for the traffic violation, the issue of a lawful search incident to custodial arrest never arose." Taylor, 388 Ill. App. 3d at 177. For these reasons, the Taylor court properly concluded that neither Cox nor Jones can be read to hold that our state constitution forbids arrests for minor traffic violations. We reject statements in Moorman to the contrary.

¶ 8 Illinois follows a "limited lockstep" approach to interpreting state constitutional guarantees that correspond to rights secured by the United States Constitution. People v. Caballes, 221 Ill. 2d 282, 309-10 (2006). State constitutional provisions will be interpreted in harmony with their counterparts in the United States Constitution unless " 'a specific criterion-for example, unique state history or state experience-justifies departure from federal precedent.' " Id. at 309-10 (quoting Lawrence Friedman, The Constitutional Value of Dialogue and the New Judicial Federalism, 28 Hastings Const. L.Q. 93, 104 (2000)). Although the implications of Cox and Jones may be open to debate, absent a clear statement from our supreme court we decline to read those cases as authority that a police officer may not make a custodial arrest for a petty offense.

¶ 9 Defendant argues that a departure from the federal rule announced in Atwater is justified because "[t]here exists a long-standing state tradition of not allowing police officers to arrest citizens for fine-only traffic offenses." In support of this proposition, defendant relies principally on People v. Watkins, 19 Ill. 2d 11 (1960). But that case did not prohibit arrests for minor traffic offenses. Rather, the Watkins court held that a police officer had no authority to conduct a search incident to an arrest for such an offense, specifically, parking too close to a crosswalk. The Watkins court reasoned:

"A uniform rule permitting a search in every case of a valid arrest, even for minor traffic violations, would greatly simplify our task and that of law enforcement officers. But such an approach would preclude consideration of the reasonableness of any particular search, and so would ...

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