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People v. Contreras

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

November 19, 2014

JOSE CONTRERAS, Defendant-Appellee

Page 369

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 CR 2029. Honorable Nicholas Ford, Judge Presiding.


The trial court's order quashing defendant's arrest and suppressing the evidence obtained in a warrantless search of the vehicle he was driving was reversed and the cause was remanded for further proceedings, since the police had probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle after it was stopped on a public street for a minor traffic violation, the observation tat the occupants were not wearing seat belts, and that probable cause was based on information the officers obtained from an informant that the vehicle had an illegal secret compartment that was used by the occupants to deliver narcotics; therefore, no warrant was necessary to search the vehicle at the scene of the stop, and the officers' decision to take the vehicle to a nearby police station to avoid the busy intersection where the stop occurred and go to a location where the search could be conducted safely was reasonable, regardless of the delay in conducting the search and the fact that they did not know the specific contents of the bag they saw being placed somewhere in the backseat area of the car.

For APPELLANT, Cook County State's Attorney, Chicago, IL (Anita Alvarez, Alan J. Spellberg, Tasha-Marie Kelly, Gina DiVito, of counsel).

For APPELLEE, Marvin Bloom, Chicago, IL.

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



Page 370

[¶1] The State appeals the trial court's order granting defendant Jose Contreras' motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence recovered from a warrantless search of a vehicle he was driving. Following a traffic stop, police believed probable cause existed that the vehicle contained a secret compartment in violation of section 12-612 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/12-612 (West 2010)) and relocated the vehicle to a police station where the vehicle was searched, revealing a secret compartment containing heroin, cocaine, firearms and a large sum of currency. The State claims police had probable cause to search the vehicle without a warrant on the public street where the vehicle was stopped and that probable cause continued to exist after the vehicle was relocated to a police station. We agree and, therefore, reverse and remand for further proceedings.


[¶3] On December 29, 2011, Contreras was arrested on 2 counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and 10 counts of unlawful use or possession of a weapon by a felon. Contreras filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence relating to the search of a 1998 gold Cadillac Catera he was driving on December 29, 2011, asserting the stop, arrest and subsequent search of the vehicle were conducted without a warrant or probable cause in violation of his constitutional rights. In response, the State asserted the search of the vehicle at the police station was supported by the probable cause the officers developed at the scene, which indicated that the vehicle contained an illegal " car trap." The following evidence was adduced at the hearing on Contreras' motion.

[¶4] Contreras' arrest resulted from investigative tips provided by George Kasp after he was arrested for delivering heroin to an informant. Kasp was a target of an investigation known as " Operation Triple Threat" conducted jointly by the gang investigations unit of the Chicago police department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Prior to Kasp's arrest, Contreras was not a target of that investigation and he was unknown to the investigating officers. Chicago police officers George Lopez, Daniel DeLopez, Edmund Zablocki, and Joe Wagner and Sergeant Matthew Cline participated in " Operation Triple Threat." As part of the investigation, police arranged for an informant to purchase heroin from Kasp at a restaurant located in the 2900 block of West Chicago Avenue. After Kasp sold the heroin, he was arrested at approximately 2:50 p.m., along with his codefendant, Dionicoiso Garcia. Both men were then transported to the Homan Square station, which is the location of the Chicago police department's organized crime bureau.

[¶5] During questioning by Officer Zablocki, Kasp told him he wanted to cooperate. Sergeant Cline was also present for the first part of Kasp's interview. Using a Nextel telephone, Officer Zablocki relayed the information Kasp told him during the interview, almost instantaneously, to Officers DeLopez, Lopez and Wagner and, after he left, Sergeant Cline. In fact, everyone on the investigative team either broadcasted or received information on the Nextel devices.

Page 371

[¶6] During questioning, Kasp identified " Jose" as his heroin supplier and stated that earlier in the day, Jose and " Pedro" brought heroin to his house, located at 2243 West Grand Avenue in Chicago. Kasp either did not recall or did not know Jose's and Pedro's surnames. The men arrived at Kasp's house in a gold Cadillac, and Kasp opened a back gate allowing the vehicle to park in the back of his house. Kasp observed Pedro remove a brown paper bag from a hidden compartment in the rear of the vehicle and the men then entered Kasp's house. Once inside, Jose handed Kasp the brown paper bag, which contained heroin, and Kasp placed it on a butcher block cabinet in his kitchen.

[¶7] Kasp indicated that additional narcotics were inside his house, as well as two handguns and approximately $23,000. One gun was located in a black bag on the rear porch of his house and one was on a stool next to a butcher block cabinet inside his house. Approximately 150 grams of heroin were inside the brown paper bag located on top of the butcher block, which was the amount of heroin remaining after Kasp delivered 200 grams to the informant. The brown paper bag was the same bag Jose and Pedro used to deliver the heroin to him.

[¶8] Kasp verbally consented to a search of his house. He also provided the officers with keys to his house and instructed them how to enter his house through the front door. Sergeant Cline took the keys and went to Kasp's house to assist with surveillance awaiting word that Kasp provided written consent to the search. Kasp signed the consent to search form at 3:27 p.m.

[¶9] Kasp informed Officer Zablocki that Jose and Pedro might still be inside his house and the gold Cadillac might still be parked there. During the interview, Kasp received numerous telephone calls from Jose on his cell phone and Garcia received telephone calls from the same ...

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