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The People of the State of Illinois v. Carlos Dax Cregan

November 29, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CARLOS DAX CREGAN,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 09CF1014 Honorable Charles G. Reynard, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Knecht

PRESIDING JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Steigmann and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 The trial court denied defendant Carlos Dax Cregan's motion to suppress evidence. Following a stipulated bench trial, the court found defendant guilty of unlawful possession of less than 15 grams of a controlled substance (cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 2008)). The court sentenced defendant to an extended term of 5 1/2 years in prison. Defendant appeals, arguing the court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the search of his luggage was neither (1) a valid search incident to arrest nor (2) a lawful inventory search. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 In November 2009, the State charged defendant by indictment with unlawful possession of less than 15 grams of a controlled substance (cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 2008)). In December 2009, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing the officers' search exceeded the scope of a search incident to arrest. In January 2010, the trial court held a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, and the following evidence was introduced.

¶ 4 On November 3, 2009, officers received an anonymous tip defendant would be traveling by train to Normal, Illinois. The tipster informed officers defendant had an outstanding arrest warrant. Officers investigated the tip and learned defendant had an active civil arrest warrant for failure to pay child support. Officers also discovered defendant was an active gang member. Officer Kevin Kreger of the Normal police department and other officers were dispatched to the train station to arrest defendant. Kreger was a member of the ProActive Unit, which focused on drug and gang activity.

¶ 5 Kreger and two other members of the ProActive Unit located an individual matching defendant's description getting off a train. Defendant was carrying a laundry bag and wheeling a luggage bag behind him. Kreger and two other officers approached defendant and ordered him to drop his bags. Defendant dropped both bags and placed his hands behind his back. Officers placed defendant in handcuffs.

¶ 6 Kreger testified he initially intended to take defendant's bags into police custody after arresting defendant. Kreger stated because defendant was alone, department policy required officers to take his possessions and conduct an inventory search. A female, later identified as Lindsey Collins, approached defendant "very briefly" after police made contact with him. Defendant asked officers if Collins could take his bags, and Kreger told him "we need to go through [the] bags first." Neither bag was locked. Kreger found a container of hair gel inside the "main compartment" of defendant's bag. Though he did not see anything suspicious inside the container, Kreger removed the lid and found suspected cocaine in a plastic bag inside. Kreger did not release defendant's luggage to Collins because he found contraband.

¶ 7 Officer Christopher Nyman of the Normal police department was a member of the ProActive Unit involved in defendant's arrest on November 3, 2009. Nyman testified defendant made contact with a female immediately before police approached him and placed him under arrest. Nyman also stated defendant complied with orders and placed his bags on the ground. When asked if defendant attempted to take control of his bags after he dropped them, Nyman responded, "No, he was in handcuffs."

¶ 8 Defendant testified he made contact with Collins immediately before police approached him. Defendant dropped both bags and placed his hands behind his back when ordered to by officers. After he was handcuffed, defendant asked the officers to release his bags to Collins, but officers told him they had to search the bags first. Defendant and his bags were moved to the side of the train station, where the bags were searched in defendant's presence.

¶ 9 The trial court denied defendant's motion, finding the bags were in defendant's immediate control during the arrest. The court explained defendant could not "insulate the property from being searched" by attempting to hand the bags off to another party. The court further found requiring officers to release the bags to Collins without searching them first potentially involved taking a weapon away from defendant and placing it in Collins's hands, which represented a serious risk to officer safety. During its analysis, the court emphasized defendant's status as a known gang member in evaluating the officer's actions.

ΒΆ 10 In February 2010, the trial court held a stipulated bench trial. The court took judicial notice of testimony from the suppression hearing. In addition, the parties stipulated (1) the substance found inside the hair gel container in defendant's luggage contained 9.77 grams of cocaine, and (2) defendant confessed to possessing the cocaine in a taped interview with police ...


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