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People v. Abdur-Rahim

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

August 20, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ABDULLAH ABDUR-RAHIM, Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, La Salle County, Illinois. Circuit No. 12-CF-30. The Honorable H. Chris Ryan, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McDade and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 904

LYTTON, J.

[¶1] Defendant, Abdullah Abdur-Rahim, was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/5(g) (West 2012)). Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence, arguing that the 50-minute detention after the initial stop was an unlawful extension of the stop. He also filed a motion to suppress his statements, claiming that the statements he made during the detention should be suppressed because he was not given proper Miranda notice. The trial court conducted separate hearings and denied the motions. Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty and sentenced to seven years in prison. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying both of his pretrial motions. We reverse.

[¶2] At the hearing on the motion to suppress defendant's statements, Trooper John Morscheiser testified that he was on patrol around 1 p.m. on January 16, 2012, on Interstate 80. He observed a Toyota Tundra following a vehicle too closely and crossing the yellow line. Morscheiser executed a traffic stop and approached the passenger side of the vehicle. He identified defendant as the driver and advised him of the traffic violations. About 20 or 30 minutes later, Morscheiser returned to defendant's truck and asked defendant to step out of the vehicle. Trooper Ken Patterson was also present as the backup trooper, but he was not near Morscheiser or the Tundra when Morscheiser asked defendant to step out of the vehicle.

Page 905

[¶3] Morscheiser escorted defendant to the back of the truck and engaged in a conversation with him. The conversation took place between the truck and the squad car and was recorded on the squad car's dashboard camera. At that point, defendant had not been informed that he was under arrest or that he was being otherwise investigated. Morscheiser advised defendant that he smelled cannabis in the vehicle upon his initial approach, and he asked defendant to explain why he smelled cannabis. Defendant told Morscheiser that there was probably an odor of cannabis on his clothes. He also admitted that he had a " bowl" (a device commonly used for smoking marijuana) in the center console.

[¶4] On cross-examination, Morscheiser testified that when he initially approached defendant's vehicle, he asked defendant for his driver's license. During the 30 minutes between the initial stop and when Morscheiser returned to defendant's truck, Morscheiser finished writing the warning tickets. When he approached defendant's truck, Morscheiser had defendant's driver's license, but he did not give defendant the tickets or his driver's license before asking him to step out of the vehicle.

[¶5] On redirect, Morscheiser testified that after he conducted the initial driver's license inquiry, dispatch notified him that defendant was on the terrorist watch list. He stated that it took him a long time to complete the written warnings due to the unusual circumstances. Morscheiser had to complete several comparison checks to verify that defendant was the same person whose name appeared on the watch list. He had the district dispatch center working to verify defendant's identification. He also had to make the appropriate phone calls and provide information about the subject.

[¶6] The trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress statements. The court noted that the length of the stop was " getting a little long" but concluded that it was not so unreasonable that it transformed into a custodial situation. The court added that " [defendant] might feel that he was in custody. But on the other hand, given the Mendenhall factors, I don't think he was. I can't find that based on an objective view."

[¶7] A subsequent hearing was held on defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. Trooper Morscheiser again testified that he pulled defendant over on January 16, 2012, for driving too closely to another vehicle and crossing the yellow line. He approached the passenger side of the vehicle. After a brief conversation, defendant gave Morscheiser his driver's license, which Morscheiser took back to his squad car. Morscheiser testified that when he initially approached defendant's vehicle, he had a " suspicion of the odor of cannabis." He later testified that he was unsure about the odor because of the way the wind was blowing and he decided to give defendant " the benefit of the doubt originally because it was a faint odor." Morscheiser stated that he wanted to talk to defendant about the odor at some point, but there were other things going on that delayed the conversation.

[¶8] Within minutes after the initial stop, Trooper Patterson arrived on the scene. He approached the truck, spoke with defendant, and then went back to the squad car and talked to Morscheiser. Patterson then returned to defendant's vehicle and had another conversation with defendant. Morscheiser testified that he did not mention marijuana to defendant during the initial 30 minutes of the stop but that Patterson did. Morscheiser stated that he " probably" told Patterson he was going to question defendant about the cannabis.

[¶9] Morscheiser further testified that he issued warning tickets for the ...


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