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People v. Coleman

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

December 18, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CRAIG COLEMAN, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 12 CR 9879 Honorable Joseph Claps, Judge Presiding.

Presiding Justice Hyman and Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

JUSTICE MASON

¶ 1 Defendant Craig Coleman was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The trial court granted Coleman's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence on the grounds that the search of Coleman's vehicle was unconstitutional because the police officers did not know at the time of the search that Coleman was on parole. On appeal, the State contends that the trial court erred in granting the motion because a person who is on parole has consented to warrantless searches of his person or property at any time and the police officers' knowledge of an individual's parole status is irrelevant. In the alternative, the State contends that the search was lawful because the consensual encounter led to probable cause and the controlled substance would have been inevitably discovered later through an inventory search. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On May 4, 2012, at approximately 3:40 p.m., Coleman parked a green Infiniti on the east side of Laflin on the block between 50th and 51st Streets in Chicago. Coleman exited the car, crossed to the west side of Laflin, and proceeded to walk south toward 51st Street. When Coleman reached the intersection of Laflin and 51st, a police car pulled directly in front of him. The police officers took Coleman's car keys from him and asked him if he had a driver's license and insurance. After Coleman told the officers he did not have a license or insurance on his person, two officers remained with Coleman while a third officer searched the Infiniti. The police officer found suspect heroin inside the vehicle and Coleman was arrested and subsequently charged with the offense of possession with intent to deliver between 100 and 400 grams of heroin.

¶ 4 On June 25, 2012, Coleman filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. At the hearing on the motion, Coleman testified that after the police officer took the car keys from his hand, the officer walked up and down the block trying to determine which car the keys operated. The officer tried the keys on three different cars before finally pressing the alarm to activate the lights. The officer then went to the green Infiniti and searched the vehicle. Coleman testified that he did not consent to the officers taking his car keys or searching his car.

¶ 5 Officer Robert Vahl testified that he and two partners were in a police vehicle and were traveling north on Laflin toward 51st Street when he observed Coleman exiting a green vehicle that was parked on the 5000 block of Laflin. Officer Vahl had received a tip from an anonymous informant that a vehicle matching that description was being used to transport narcotics to a building at 5102 South Laflin. The officers approached Coleman at the intersection of 51st and Laflin.

¶ 6 Officer Vahl asked Coleman who owned the car that he had just exited. Coleman denied ownership of the vehicle and said he did not drive. Officer Vahl noticed that Coleman was carrying two sets of car keys and asked Coleman if he had a valid driver's license or insurance. When Coleman was unable to produce a driver's license or proof of insurance, he was taken into custody. Officer Vahl then approached the green Infiniti and, using the keys he had taken from Coleman, conducted a search of the vehicle. Underneath the driver's seat, he found a black plastic grocery bag containing three separate bags, each containing numerous bags of suspected heroin. On cross-examination, Officer Vahl acknowledged that he did not learn that Coleman was on parole until after he searched the vehicle and found the narcotics.

¶ 7 On August 16, 2012, the circuit court issued its ruling. The court found that there was insufficient reasonable basis or probable cause to detain Coleman based on the testimony at the hearing. The court described the basis for the stop as "nothing but a wish and a hope." After confirming for the record that the State's position was that the search of the vehicle was constitutional because of Coleman's status as a parolee, the circuit court found that it was irrelevant whether the police officers knew of Coleman's status at the time of the search and denied the motion to suppress.

¶ 8 Coleman filed a motion to reconsider and the court heard arguments on the motion on September 27, 2012, and took the matter under advisement. On October 25, 2012, the circuit court noted that it had reviewed the relevant case law and had determined that its earlier ruling had been incorrect. Therefore, the court granted the motion to quash the arrest and suppress evidence on the basis that the search of the vehicle was not allowed where the police officers were not aware that Coleman was on parole at the time of the search. The State filed a certificate of substantial impairment and timely filed this appeal.

¶ 9 ANALYSIS

¶ 10 This court has jurisdiction over this appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(a)(1) (eff. Feb. 6, 2013), which permits the State to file an interlocutory appeal from an order quashing an arrest or suppressing evidence. The State contends that the trial court erred in granting Coleman's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence because Coleman prospectively consented to the search of his car when he signed his parole agreement and the fact that the police officer who conducted the search did not know of his status as a parolee was irrelevant.

¶ 11 A motion to suppress involves mixed questions of law and fact. People v. Pitman, 211 Ill.2d 502, 512 (2004). Findings of historical fact made by the circuit court will be upheld unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. However, the ultimate question of whether suppression is appropriate under a ...


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