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The People of the State of Illinois v. Dion Flint

August 24, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DION FLINT,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois Circuit Nos. 10-DT-2036, 10-TR-116600, and 10-TR-116601 Honorable Joseph C. Polito, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Carter

JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices McDade and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Dion Flint, was charged with driving under the influence (DUI), reckless driving, and improper lane usage. He filed a petition to rescind his statutory summary suspension and a motion to suppress evidence, both of which the circuit court granted after it found that the police officer lacked a reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop defendant. On appeal, the State argues that the trial court's rulings were erroneous because the officer did in fact have a reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop defendant. We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 3 On December 20, 2010, defendant received citations for DUI, reckless driving, and improper lane usage. Defendant also received notice that his driver's license was subject to a summary suspension because he failed a breath test.

¶ 4 Defendant filed a petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension and a motion to suppress, in which he argued, among other things, that the officer lacked a reasonable, articulable suspicion to effect a traffic stop.

¶ 5 At the hearing on defendant's petition and motion, defendant testified that on December 20, 2010, at about 1:40 a.m., he was driving eastbound on Stripmine Road in Wilmington, Illinois. His friend, Gerald Hatch, was seated in the front passenger's seat. They were coming from Snooker's Bar and Grill and heading to Hatch's motorcycle shop. The speed limit was 50 miles per hour, and the road was a little icy. Stripmine Road had one lane in each direction with a dotted yellow center line between the two lanes and a white fog line on the outside of each lane. According to defendant, while he was on Stripmine Road, he never crossed the center line and there was nothing unusual about his driving.

¶ 6 Defendant signaled and made a left turn onto Davy Lane heading northbound. He drove about a half a mile to Hatch's shop, signaled a right turn, and pulled into the parking lot. According to defendant, he did not cross any of the lane lines while on Davy Lane. A friend of defendant was in a vehicle directly behind him. Defendant wanted to be facing the exit, so he put the vehicle in reverse, turned the steering wheel hard, did a "half-donut" maneuver to swing the front end of the vehicle around, and parked the vehicle. The parking lot was big, empty, and full of ice. There were no vehicles or people in the parking lot, and there was no property near defendant's vehicle when he swung the front end of the vehicle around. After defendant parked, his friend in the vehicle behind him pulled in next to him. Behind her, a police officer pulled in with his overhead lights on.

A traffic stop ensued. During the course of the stop, at the officer's request, defendant performed field sobriety tests. Defendant was subsequently arrested for DUI.

¶ 7 Gerald Hatch testified for defendant and gave a similar account as to what had occurred that evening leading up to the traffic stop. In addition, Hatch stated that the parking lot for his business was a big lot and that there were five other businesses at that location. Hatch remained in the car and did not see what occurred between the officer and defendant after defendant was asked to step out of the car.

¶ 8 Will County Sheriff's Deputy Kurt Messer testified for the State. Messer's testimony was similar to that of defendant and Hatch regarding the weather and road conditions that night and the route that defendant traveled. Messer testified, however, that while defendant was driving on Stripmine Road, he observed defendant cross the center line for possibly a few seconds. According to Messer, the tire of defendant's vehicle went completely over the center line and then back. Messer testified further that when defendant pulled into the parking lot, he did two complete "donuts." Messer made the traffic stop because of the improper lane usage and because of the reckless driving. Those observations raised questions in Messer's mind regarding defendant's ability to drive. Messer stated that the parking lot where defendant did "donuts" was a small industrial parking lot with several businesses.

ΒΆ 9 Defense counsel argued that, pursuant to People v. Hackett, 406 Ill. App. 3d 209 (2010), rev'd, 2012 IL 111781, defendant's single, momentary deviation from his lane on Stripmine Road was insufficient to create a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity. Defense counsel argued further that defendant's "donut" maneuver in the parking lot did not create a reasonable, articulable suspicion of reckless driving because the parking lot was large and empty and because no person or property was put in danger by defendant's maneuver. Defendant asserted, therefore, that he should not have been stopped by Messer. The State attempted to distinguish this court's decision in Hackett on its facts, but the circuit court found that it was bound by the case. Accordingly, the circuit ...


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