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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.

Rehearing denied January 15, 2014

Held [*]

The trial court’s grant of defendant’s motion to quash his arrest and suppress the heroin discovered in his car following a warrantless search was upheld, notwithstanding the State’s contentions that defendant was on parole at the time and had consented to warrantless searches of his person and property, the anonymous tip the officers were acting on led to probable cause when defendant admitted he did not have insurance or a driver’s license, and the heroin would have been discovered in an inventory search, since the State forfeited the latter argument by failing to raise it in the trial court, and the unlawful search could not be justified by the discovery after the fact that defendant was a parolee.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 12-CR-9879; the Hon. Joseph Claps, Judge, presiding.

Anita M. Alvarez, State’s Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Kathleen Warnick, and Susanna Bucaro, Assistant State’s Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Law Offices of Frank J. Himel, of Chicago (Frank J. Himel, of counsel), for appellee.

Panel JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman and Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

MASON JUSTICE

¶ 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 suspected 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.

ΒΆ 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 ...


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