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People v. Fields

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

December 31, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DEMONTE FIELDS, Defendant-Appellant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 12 CR 13303. Honorable Thaddeus L. Wilson, Judge Presiding.

For Appellant: Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Alan D. Goldberg, Deputy Defender, Carson R. Griffis, of counsel, Chicago, IL.

For Appellee: Anita Alvarez, Cook County State's Attorney, Alan J. Spellberg, Mary Needham, Marci Jacobs, of counsel, Chicago, IL.

JUSTICE LAMPKIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Rochford concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Hall dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

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LAMPKIN, JUSTICE.

[¶1] After a bench trial, defendant Demonte Fields was found guilty of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) and sentenced to two years of probation.

[¶2] On appeal, he contends (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence where the police obtained a firearm and inculpatory statement from defendant after arresting him without probable cause; (2) the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not an invitee of a resident of the apartment building where he was arrested; and (3) his conviction must be vacated because the statute prohibiting the possession of a handgun while

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under 21 years of age is facially unconstitutional.

[¶3] For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's conviction.

[¶4] I. BACKGROUND

[¶5] Defendant was charged with three counts of AUUW based on allegations that he, when not on his own land, in his own abode or fixed place of business, knowingly carried a firearm (count I) that was uncased, loaded and immediately accessible; (count II) while he had not been issued a currently valid firearm owner's identification (FOID) card; and (count III) while he was under 21 years of age. After a bench trial, the court found defendant not guilty of counts I and II and guilty of count III, and sentenced him to two years of probation.

[¶6] Prior to the bench trial, defendant filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence, alleging that there was no probable cause to support his arrest. At the hearing on the motion, Chicago police officer M. Mette testified that he was on duty at 1:50 a.m. on July 9, 2012, when he and his partner received an assignment to go to the area of 6935 South Indiana Avenue in Chicago to investigate an anonymous complaint that people were selling drugs there. Officer Mette had been to that building at least a dozen times before. He knew that narcotics were sold in that area, a gang conflict was going on in that building, and members of his team had made narcotics arrests inside that building before. When Officer Mette and his partner arrived in their patrol car, they saw a group of male teenagers and young adults drinking alcohol on the street. The officers told the group to disperse and left to handle another call a short distance away. When the officers returned about 5 or 10 minutes later, the group had not dispersed. The officers, who were in uniform, exited their patrol car, and the group dispersed. According to the anonymous complaint, when the police showed up, the people selling drugs ran inside the building, so Officer Mette and his partner entered the building by randomly ringing some of the doorbells of the building's six apartment units until someone remotely unlocked the door to allow their entry.

[¶7] Officer Mette testified that he and his partner walked up the stairs and their weapons were holstered. They saw nothing on the first and second floors, but saw defendant sitting on the landing of the third floor. He was holding his cell phone and shaking visibly. The shaking was unusual and continued throughout the officers' encounter with defendant. Officer Mette could tell that defendant was nervous.

[¶8] Officer Mette testified that he asked defendant to stand up, but he would not. Officer Mette asked defendant what he was doing there, and defendant said that he was waiting for his mother. Officer Mette asked him how old he was, and defendant said that he was 15. Officer Mette asked him where he lived, and defendant nodded to one of the apartments and said, " Here." However, when Officer Mette asked defendant what his address was, he could not give it. Defendant was asked where his mother was, but he just said that he was waiting for her. Defendant was asked if he had keys to the apartment, and he said that he did not. Officer Mette again asked defendant what his address was, but he could not answer the question. Because defendant claimed he was a minor and was left alone, the officers could not leave him there. Officer Mette again asked defendant where his mother was and his name so Officer Mette could fill out a contact card. When Officer Mette asked for defendant's date of birth, he gave his real birth date--May 22,

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1994--which established that defendant had lied and was actually 18 years old.

[¶9] Officer Mette testified that he decided to bring defendant out to the patrol car, run his name and pull up a picture to verify his identity, so he asked defendant to stand up. Defendant would not stand up, so Officer Mette told defendant he was going to put him in handcuffs and find out who he was. Officer Mette handcuffed defendant while he remained seated. Then, Officer Mette grabbed defendant by his right arm, came kind of underneath him, and lifted him to his feet. The other officer was behind Officer Mette, on the second-floor landing. Officer Mette backed defendant up against the wall on the third floor between the two apartments and heard a big thud as something hit the ground. He looked down and saw a revolver on the ground. Simultaneously, defendant made an incriminating statement regarding the gun. Officer Mette's partner picked the gun up off the ground. The gun was loaded.

[¶10] Defendant testified that his uncle lived at 6935 South Indiana Avenue and defendant stayed there " once in a while" or about once a week. No one was home at the time of the incident at issue in this appeal. Defendant said he had found a gun in an alley behind the building and was in the building so he " could put it [the gun] up." He wanted to put the gun in a bag and turn it in to the church in exchange for money. He was sitting in the hallway on the third floor waiting for his mother when he heard the apartment door buzzers from different floors. Then he heard the bell that rings when someone is admitted into the building. He heard the door open and saw the police come up the stairs. Officer Mette had his gun out, but his partner did not. Defendant was nervous and shaking because Officer Mette's gun was out, even though it was not pointed directly at defendant. Officer Mette asked defendant what he was doing, and he replied that he was waiting for his mom to come home. When Officer Mette asked defendant the address, defendant did not know the full address. Officer Mette told defendant to get up, but defendant did not want to. Defendant did not feel free to leave, and Officer Mette, by standing in front of defendant, was blocking his exit down the stairs. Officer Mette, using one hand, picked defendant up, and the gun fell out of defendant's shorts and onto the ground. Officer Mette called to his partner, who was on the landing between the second and third floors, to come up and help put handcuffs on defendant. Defendant denied telling the officers that he was sorry he had the gun and had it to protect himself.

[¶11] The trial court found Officer Mette's testimony credible and denied defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. The trial court stated that, based on the anonymous information about individuals selling narcotics and running into the building and the circumstances the officers observed when they were outside the building, the officers were obligated to investigate. Defendant, who could have been a witness to a criminal offense, was visibly nervous in the stairwell, and the police had a consensual encounter with him. Defendant voluntarily answered their questions but could not give the address and did not tell them his correct age, thereby raising the officers' suspicions. The trial court found that the officers legally detained and handcuffed defendant and, then, when the officers had defendant stand, the gun fell out in plain view without defendant being patted down or searched. Thereafter, the trial court denied defendant's motion to reconsider. In ruling, the trial court noted that defendant looked very young--" anywhere from

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12 to 15 years old *** and closer in looks to 12, 13, 14 than to 15."

[¶12] Defendant proceeded to a stipulated bench trial. In addition to the testimony heard at the hearing on the motion to quash the arrest and suppress evidence, the parties stipulated that the handgun at issue was loaded with five .38 caliber rounds. Moreover, a self-authenticating document established that defendant did not possess a FOID card at the time of his arrest.

[¶13] The trial court found defendant not guilty of counts I and II, but guilty of count III, which involved knowing possession of a firearm when not on his own land or in his abode or place of business and while he was under 21 years of age. The court sentenced defendant to two years of probation. Defendant appealed.

[¶14] II. ANALYSIS

[¶15] On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence where the police obtained a firearm and inculpatory statement from him after arresting him without probable cause. Defendant also contends the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not an invitee of a resident of the apartment building where he was arrested. In addition, defendant argues that his conviction must be vacated because the statute prohibiting the possession of a handgun while under 21 years of age is facially unconstitutional.

[¶16] A. Consensual Encounter, Terry Stop and Arrest

[¶17] Defendant contends he was arrested without probable cause when the police put handcuffs on him. Accordingly, defendant asserts that his loaded handgun, which was seized shortly after he was handcuffed, and his oral admission to possessing the handgun should have been suppressed.

[¶18] A reviewing court accords great deference to the factual findings of the trial court, which will be reversed only if they are against the manifest weight of the evidence, but reviews de novo the trial court's ultimate determination to grant or deny the defendant's motion to suppress. People v. Luedemann, 222 Ill.2d 530, 542, 857 N.E.2d 187, 306 Ill.Dec. 94 (2006); People v. Cox, 202 Ill.2d 462, 466, 782 N.E.2d 275, 270 Ill.Dec. 81 (2002). " On such a motion the defendant bears the burden of proof that the search and seizure were unlawful." People v. Williams, 164 Ill.2d 1, 12, 645 N.E.2d 844, 206 Ill.Dec. 592 (1994).

[¶19] The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const., amend. IV. " Reasonableness under the fourth amendment generally requires a warrant supported by probable cause" ( People v. Johnson, 237 Ill.2d 81, 89, 927 N.E.2d 1179, 340 Ill.Dec. 168 (2010)), but the Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), recognized an exception to the warrant requirement. Pursuant to Terry, " an officer may, within the parameters of the fourth amendment, conduct a brief, investigatory stop of a citizen when the officer has a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity, and such suspicion amounts to more than a mere 'hunch.'" People v. Gherna, 203 Ill.2d 165, 177, 784 N.E.2d 799, 271 Ill.Dec. 245 (2003) (citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 27).

[¶20] Not every encounter between the police and a private citizen results in a seizure. Luedemann, 222 Ill.2d at 544. " Courts have divided police-citizen encounters into

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three tiers: (1) arrests, which must be supported by probable cause; (2) brief investigative detentions, or ' Terry stops,' which must be supported by a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity; and (3) [consensual] encounters that involve no coercion or detention and thus do not implicate fourth amendment interests." Id. In addition, the " community caretaking function," which refers to a capacity in which the police act when they are performing some task unrelated to the investigation of crime, is distinct from the consensual encounter and can also be invoked to validate a search or seizure as reasonable under the fourth amendment. Id. at 545, 548. Examples of the community caretaking function include police " responding to heart attack victims, helping children find their parents, helping inebriates find their way home, responding to calls about missing persons or sick neighbors, mediating noise disputes, responding to calls about stray or injured animals, investigating premises left open at night, taking lost property into their possession, and removing abandoned property." Id. at 546. " There has never been a requirement that the police must be acting in a community caretaking function to prevent the encounter from turning into a seizure." Id. at 549. Furthermore, a police officer can be both acting in his community caretaking function and engaging in a consensual encounter. Id. at 548.

[¶21] The police have the right to approach citizens and ask potentially incriminating questions, and an officer does not violate the fourth amendment merely by approaching a person in public to ask questions if the person is willing to listen. Id. at 549. For example, the police may approach a person standing or seated in a public place or seated in a parked vehicle and ...


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