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People v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

June 6, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL R. WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

Rehearing denied July 15, 2013

Held [*]

The detection of a “strong odor of cannabis” coming from the interior of a car legally stopped for speeding gave the arresting officer the probable cause and exigent circumstances necessary to perform a warrantless search of defendant, a passenger in the car, and defendant’s motion to suppress the cannabis discovered in his shoes was properly denied, since defendant’s person was the last reasonable place the officer might find the cannabis he smelled after he had searched the driver and the interior of the car, including containers in the car.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Woodford County, No. 09-CF-148; the Hon. John B. Huschen, Judge, presiding.

Michael J. Pelletier, Karen Munoz, and Michael H. Vonnahmen, all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Springfield, for appellant.

Gregory A. Minger, State's Attorney, of Eureka (Patrick Delfino, Robert J. Biderman, and Perry L. Miller, all of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

Justices Appleton and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

STEIGMANN PRESIDING JUSTICE

¶ 1 In this case, we are asked to decide whether a police officer's detecting the "strong odor of cannabis" emanating from the interior of a lawfully stopped vehicle provides the police with the probable cause and exigent circumstances necessary to perform a warrantless search of a passenger in that vehicle. We conclude that it does.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 In December 2009, the State charged defendant, Michael R. Williams, with unlawful possession of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(d) (West 2008)). In April 2010, defendant filed a motion to suppress the cannabis that was the basis of that charge.

¶ 4 At a May 2010 hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, the parties stipulated to the facts, which were contained in the arresting officer's December 2009 police report, and argued only whether those facts justified the warrantless search of defendant as a passenger in a lawfully detained vehicle. The following summary of facts was gleaned from that police report.

¶ 5 In December 2009, Illinois State Trooper R. Slayback was running a radar speed gun at a rest stop off Interstate 39 when he measured a Chrysler Aspen traveling 16 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Slayback initiated a traffic stop and found Olympia R. Cook driving the vehicle, defendant in the front passenger seat, and the couple's two children in the backseat. As Cook lowered the window, Slayback "immediately detected a strong odor of cannabis [emanating] from the vehicle." Upon request, Cook and defendant provided identification and explained that they were traveling to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the holidays.

ΒΆ 6 Slayback asked Cook to exit the vehicle so that he could question her outside defendant's presence. Cook claimed that the vehicle belonged to her cousin and that she was not responsible for anything inside the vehicle. Two other troopers arrived, and shortly thereafter, Slayback asked defendant to exit the vehicle, which he did. Slayback patted down defendant as a safety precaution. During that patdown, defendant told Slayback that he had approximately $1, 200 in cash in his front pocket. Defendant claimed that he was planning to use the money to purchase Christmas presents when he arrived in Indianapolis. Slayback asked defendant to remove his shoes and defendant vehemently refused, ...


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