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The People of the State of Illinois v. Alejandro M. Hernandez

June 27, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ALEJANDRO M. HERNANDEZ,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Boone County. No. 10-TR-7435 Honorable John H. Young, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hudson

JUSTICE HUDSON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Hutchinson specially concurred, with opinion.

Justice Birkett specially concurred, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 The State appeals the grant of a motion by defendant, Alejandro M. Hernandez, to quash his arrest for driving with a suspended license (DWSL) (625 ILCS 5/6-303(a) (West 2010)) and suppress evidence. We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 According to the bystander's report of the hearing on defendant's motion, the sole witness, Deputy Schmitt of the Boone County sheriff's department, testified as follows. On June 11, 2010, at approximately 8:56 p.m., he was on routine patrol when he saw a car in front of him. A computer check revealed that the car had only one registered owner, Azucena Hernandez, and that her license was suspended. Schmitt recognized her name and the car because he had previously arrested her for DWSL. Schmitt decided to stop the car, but he did not first try to ascertain whether the driver matched Azucena Hernandez's description. After stopping the car, Schmitt approached the driver and learned that he was a male. The bystander's report then recounts the following events:

"The driver verbally identified himself as Alejandro Hernandez, DOB 07/22/1975. After running the driver's information, Deputy Schmitt learned that Mr. Hernandez had a suspended Illinois driver's license and arrested Mr. Hernandez for that offense."

¶ 3 The trial court granted defendant's motion. It found that Schmitt first "effectuated a traffic stop [and] approached the vehicle." "On his approach," the court continued, "it was clear that it was Alejandro Hernandez *** and clearly he's male." Schmitt "asked Mr. Hernandez for his driver's license" and defendant "said he didn't have one." Defendant "provided his name and date of birth." The judge explained that Schmitt initially had the reasonable suspicion needed for the stop because Azucena Hernandez had a suspended license. However, the reasonable suspicion dissipated as soon as Schmitt saw that the driver was male. The trial court then held that, once the reasonable suspicion dissipated, Schmitt should have explained the reason for the stop, apologized, and told defendant he was free to go. After the trial court denied the State's motion to reconsider, the State timely appealed.

¶ 4 On appeal, the State contends that the stop of defendant was proper. The State's argument is not always clear.*fn1 However, the State's primary contention is that, even after Schmitt lost any basis to believe that Azucena Hernandez was illegally driving the car, he still had grounds for a reasonable suspicion that defendant had committed or was committing an offense.

¶ 5 Because the pertinent facts are undisputed, our review of the trial court's suppression order is de novo. See People v. Gherna, 203 Ill. 2d 165, 175 (2003). An investigative detention such as a traffic stop is permissible if the law enforcement officer reasonably suspects that the person detained has committed or is about to commit a crime. People v. Galvez, 401 Ill. App. 3d 716, 718 (2010). However, an investigative stop that is originally lawful must cease once reasonable suspicion dissipates. United States v. Watts, 7 F.3d 122, 126 (8th Cir. 1993). Nevertheless, after a valid initial stop, an officer may approach a driver to explain the basis for the stop and request a license, even though reasonable suspicion has dissipated. People v. Bradley, 292 Ill. App. 3d 208, 211 (1997).

¶ 6 It is well established that a reasonable suspicion exists to stop a vehicle where it is being operated and the registered owner's license is suspended. Village of Lake in the Hills v. Lloyd, 227 Ill. App. 3d 351, 354 (1992). However, when an officer acquires information that the driver is not the registered owner, reasonable suspicion dissipates. Cf. Galvez, 401 Ill. App. 3d at 717, 719 (holding that, where an officer knew a vehicle had two registered owners, no reasonable suspicion for a stop existed where only one of them did not have a driver's license). In this case, Schmitt knew that the registered owner was female, and, after effectuating a valid stop, he learned that the driver was male. At this point, the basis for the stop dissipated. The next question we must answer is whether the extension of the stop past the point at which reasonable suspicion dissipated was constitutionally permissible.

¶ 7 As a threshold matter, we do not find it problematic that Schmitt approached the vehicle and asked defendant to identify himself or produce a driver's license. See Bradley, 292 Ill. App. 3d at 211 ("Consistent with McVey, Arteaga, and McKnight, we conclude that once [Officer] Dempsey properly stopped the car defendant was driving to determine whether the LAF sticker was valid and found that the sticker was valid, he could then approach defendant, explain to him why he had been stopped, and ask defendant to produce his driver's license. Under these circumstances, no seizure occurred when Dempsey did so."). At this point, defendant simply identified himself verbally and stated that he did not have a driver's license in his possession. This was an offense under section 6-112 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. 625 ILCS 5/6-112 (West 2010) ("Every licensee or permittee shall have his drivers license or permit in his immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle and, for the purpose of indicating compliance with this requirement, shall display such license or permit if it is in his possession upon demand made, when in uniform or displaying a badge or other sign of authority, by a member of the State Police, a sheriff or other police officer or designated agent of the Secretary of State."). Since defendant did not have a driver's license in his possession, Schmitt had a reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify extending the stop. See People v. Safunwa, 299 Ill. App. 3d 707, 713 (1998) (holding that circumstances warranted the extension of a detention where the defendant did not produce a facially valid driver's license and instead produced a traffic citation). Accordingly, the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion.

¶ 8 For the foregoing reasons, the trial court's order granting defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence is erroneous. Therefore, it is reversed, and the cause is remanded.

¶ 9 Reversed and remanded.

¶ 10 JUSTICE HUTCHINSON, specially concurring.

¶ 11 While I agree with my colleagues to reverse the trial court, I write separately to express my concern regarding the sufficiency of the bystander's report. The issue in this appeal is whether defendant's traffic stop constituted an unreasonable seizure within the meaning of the fourth amendment, and accordingly whether the trial court properly granted defendant's motion to quash and suppress. There is perhaps no greater responsibility this court is charged with than ensuring that the citizens of this state are afforded their guaranteed protections under the United States and Illinois Constitutions. Undertaking this important task requires an adequate record on appeal.

¶ 12 Pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), the reasonableness of a traffic stop involves a dual inquiry: (1) whether the officer's action was justified at the inception of the stop; and (2) whether it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances justifying the interference in the first place. People v. Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d 7, 13-14 (2003) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 19-20). Federal and Illinois law are well settled that the reasonableness of a Terry stop must be examined under the "totality of the circumstances." United States v. Lawshea, 461 F.3d 857, 859 (7th Cir. 2006). Under the second prong, a court should "consider the length of the detention and the manner in which it was carried out." (Emphases in original.) Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d at 14. "Brevity is an important factor in determining whether a detention was reasonable ***." People v. Welling, 324 Ill. App. 3d 594, 602 (2001). In considering the length of the stop, while there is no bright-line rule, courts should employ a " 'contextual, totality of the circumstances' " analysis that includes " 'the brevity of the stop and whether the police acted diligently during the stop.' " People v. McQuown, 407 Ill. App. 3d 1138, 1145 (2011) (quoting People v. Baldwin, 388 Ill. App. 3d 1028, 1034 (2009)). The State bears the burden of showing that a Terry stop was sufficiently limited in scope and duration. People v. O'Dell, 392 Ill. App. 3d 979, 986 (2009).

¶ 13 In the current matter, I agree that the initial stop was justified at its inception, and therefore the first Terry prong is not implicated. See Bunch, 207 Ill. 2d at 14. However, our inquiry does not end there. We must further consider whether defendant's continued detention after Schmitt realized that defendant was not the owner of the vehicle was reasonable under the second Terry prong. This analysis would include the length of the detention and whether Schmitt acted diligently during the stop. See McQuown, 407 Ill. App. 3d at 1145. The bystander's report provided a perfunctory version of the circumstances surrounding defendant's continued detention. For example, it neglected to mention that Schmitt asked for defendant's driver's license. This court had to search the record to find the trial court's recitation of the facts to clarify the issue. I am also troubled by the record's failure to indicate whether Schmitt explained to defendant the reason why he initiated the stop.

¶ 14 I further maintain that People v. Galvez, 401 Ill. App. 3d 716 (2010), was correctly decided and remains valid law. That case, however, is inapposite to the matter presently before us. In Galvez, the arresting officer stopped a vehicle after conducing a random registration check, where the officer learned that one of the two registered owners-one male and one female-had a revoked license. Id. at 717. The officer testified that he stopped the car without first pulling alongside the vehicle to ...


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