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The People of the State of Illinois v. Jason W. Clements

September 5, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JASON W. CLEMENTS,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Whiteside County, Illinois, Circuit Nos. 10-MR-96 and 10-DT-221 Honorable William S. McNeal, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wright

JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Carter concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice McDade dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 On October 31, 2010, defendant, Jason W. Clements, stopped his vehicle at a roadside safety checkpoint, and several minutes later an officer approached defendant's parked car. Based on the officer's observations, including a preliminary breath test and defendant's admission to the officer he had consumed alcohol, defendant was arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in violation of sections 11-501(a)(1) and 11-501(a)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (the Code), and issued a notice of statutory summary suspension. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), (a)(2), 11-501.1 (West 2010). The trial court granted defendant's petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension of his driver's license (625 ILCS 5/2-118.1(b) (West 2010)) and defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The State appeals. We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 3 On October 31, 2010, defendant stopped his vehicle within the boundaries of a checkpoint, conducted by the Illinois State Police, after trooper Vaughn Rhodes shouted at defendant to slow down. Three to five minutes later, defendant's vehicle remained parked at the checkpoint, and Rhodes approached defendant's vehicle after he finished processing another vehicle. While speaking with defendant, the officer noticed the odor of alcohol and defendant admitted consuming alcohol. A preliminary breath test revealed defendant's blood alcohol content was 0.175. The officer subsequently arrested defendant for DUI in violation of sections 11-501(a)(1) and 11-501(a)(2), and issued a notice of statutory summary suspension. 625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), (a)(2), 11-501.1 (West 2010).

¶ 4 On January 18, 2011, the court conducted a hearing on defendant's petition to rescind the statutory summary suspension. At the summary suspension hearing, Rhodes testified that on October 31, 2010, he was assigned to assist at a checkpoint located on Illinois Route 30, a two-lane highway for eastbound and westbound traffic. According to the officer, the established protocol for the checkpoint required the officers to stop every third vehicle approaching the location from either direction of travel. Rhodes testified there were between six and eight uniformed State Police troopers working at the checkpoint that night. According to Rhodes, at least two of the police vehicles had their overhead oscillating lights activated and there were posted signs alerting oncoming motorists of the approaching checkpoint.

¶ 5 Rhodes testified that at approximately 3:22 a.m. on October 31, 2010, he was on the side of the road, speaking to the driver of another stopped vehicle, when defendant's vehicle approached the checkpoint at a high rate of speed. Concerned, Rhodes turned away from the driver he was speaking to, faced the roadway, waved his flashlight, and shouted at defendant to slow down. Rather than simply reducing his speed, defendant pulled over and parked his vehicle. Defendant was not the third oncoming car approaching the checkpoint.

¶ 6 Rhodes observed defendant's car remained parked at the checkpoint for three to five minutes while Rhodes finished processing the other motorist. Consequently, Rhodes approached defendant's vehicle, which remained parked within the boundaries of the checkpoint, and Rhodes made certain observations which resulted in defendant's arrest for DUI.

¶ 7 Defendant argued to the trial court that the traffic stop violated his fourth amendment rights. Defendant claimed his rights were violated because his vehicle was not the third vehicle, and he did not commit a traffic violation prior to stopping at the checkpoint.

¶ 8 The trial court found Rhodes acted properly and did not have a subjective intent to stop defendant's vehicle. However, the court found defendant was seized because a reasonable person would not have felt free to travel through the checkpoint, without stopping, based on Rhodes's conduct. Thus, the trial court ordered the rescission of defendant's summary suspension. On February 10, 2011, the State filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied.

¶ 9 On May 19, 2011, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence. The next day, the court conducted a hearing on the motion. At the hearing, Rhodes testified he did not know exactly how fast defendant was traveling through the checkpoint or whether defendant's speed was over the posted speed limit. Nonetheless, presumably based on the road conditions present at the checkpoint, the officer concluded defendant's rate of speed was too fast and verbally directed him to slow down.

¶ 10 After hearing the evidence, the trial court allowed defendant's motion to suppress. The trial court found a seizure occurred for fourth amendment purposes because a reasonable person in defendant's position would not have felt free to leave. Furthermore, the court determined the encounter was improper because defendant was not traveling in a vehicle which should have been selected for a random inspection according to the established checkpoint procedures, nor did the officer have reasonable suspicion of a criminal activity before he approached and spoke to defendant at the scene. The State appeals.

¶ 11 ANALYSIS

ΒΆ 12 The State contends the trial court erred by granting both defendant's petition to rescind the summary suspension and his motion to suppress. The State's arguments regarding both the petition and motion are similar. Specifically, the State argues defendant's encounter with Rhodes was consensual and does not qualify as a seizure because defendant voluntarily stopped his vehicle within the checkpoint. Alternatively, the State argues even if defendant was seized, Rhodes had reasonable suspicion to stop the vehicle because Rhodes observed defendant traveling at a high rate of speed through a checkpoint. ...


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