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People v. Taiwo

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

April 3, 2015

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HERIKA TAIWO, Defendant-Appellant

Page 1209

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois, Circuit Nos. 13-DT-346, 13-TR-18010, 13-TR-18011, 13-TR-18012 and 13-TR-18013. Honorable Domenica Osterberger, Judge, Presiding.

Christopher S. Carroll, of Aurora, for appellant.

James Glasgow, State's Attorney, of Joliet (Gary F. Gnidovec, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Lytton and Schmidt concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Page 1210

WRIGHT, JUSTICE.

[¶1] After a bench trial, defendant, Herika Taiwo, was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2012)), improper lane usage (625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2012)), and failure to notify authorities of an accident (625 ILCS 5/11-406(a) (West 2012)). Defendant appeals the DUI conviction alone by challenging two rulings in the trial court. First, defendant claims the trial court improperly denied her motion to quash her arrest and suppress evidence (motion to suppress). Alternatively, defendant contends the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was in actual physical control of any vehicle on the night of her arrest for DUI. We affirm.

[¶2] FACTS

[¶3] On February 17, 2013, defendant was charged with DUI, pursuant to section 11-501(a)(2) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code) (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2012)), improper lane usage (625 ILCS 5/11-709(a) (West 2012)), failure to notify authorities of an accident (625 ILCS 5/11-406(a) (West 2012)), failure to reduce speed (625 ILCS 5/11-601(a) (West 2012)), and operating an uninsured motor vehicle (625 ILCS 5/3-707(a) (West 2012)). On April 3, 2013, defendant filed a motion to suppress arguing officers did not have reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by another person, but occupied by defendant as a front-seat passenger.

[¶4] A hearing on defendant's pretrial motion to suppress began on November 7, 2013. Defendant called Officer James Block, of the Bolingbrook police department, who testified he received a call from the dispatcher on February 17, 2013, at approximately 3 a.m. According to the dispatcher, citizens reported a black sports utility vehicle (SUV) stranded in a median on Veterans Parkway near Coventry Lane and an African-American woman with short, curly hair " was with the vehicle." Officer Block testified that " several parties

Page 1211

*** relayed information" to the dispatch center concerning the black SUV. One of the callers, " Rachel," reported a black SUV straddling the curb with a possibly intoxicated driver with short, curly hair. Once Officer Block arrived at that location, he confirmed that a black SUV was stranded in the median, but did not find an African-American woman near the abandoned SUV. When describing his observations, the officer testified as follows:

" I didn't see anybody immediately in the area of the vehicle. There wasn't a long gap of time between when the call came out and when I arrived on scene, only a couple of minutes. I looked around in all areas. There was a very open area to the west where it would be very easy to see someone walking away. To the east there is really only Coventry and Lily Field there, two streets going east/west. I could see down Coventry and see nobody down there. On Lily Field the only thing I saw was the vehicle that went from park to drive."

[¶5] The officer explained that the vehicle that " went from park to drive" was a blue Chevy parked facing east in the westbound lane of Lily Field Lane, with the driver's side wheels positioned adjacent to the curb. When the officer focused his attention on the blue Chevy parked in this fashion, he saw the headlights turn on and watched the blue Chevy leave the area. After making these observations, Officer Block suspected the blue Chevy may have been involved in an accident with the SUV. Consequently, the officer pursued the blue Chevy and performed a traffic stop.

[¶6] Once the blue Chevy pulled over, Officer Block observed an African-American woman, matching the description of the person last seen near the stranded black SUV, seated in the front passenger seat. Eventually, Officer Block arrested defendant for operating the black SUV while under the influence of alcohol and other traffic offenses.

[¶7] The State argued that Officer Block had a reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop the blue Chevy. In addition, the State argued reasonable grounds existed for Officer Block's traffic stop of the blue Chevy based on his observation of a traffic violation. When ruling on the written motion to suppress, the court found Officer Block's testimony to be credible, but rejected the State's argument that the officer's suspicions would qualify as a reasonable basis to stop the blue Chevy in order to investigate the accident involving the black SUV.

[¶8] However, the court noted that the officer's testimony established the officer witnessed the driver of the blue Chevy commit a traffic offense, improper lane usage, before making a decision to pursue and stop the blue Chevy. According to the court, these observations by the officer provided a probable cause basis to stop the driver of the blue Chevy for that violation. Therefore, the court found probable cause existed prior to the traffic stop and rendered the stop lawful regardless of the officer's suspicions about the link between the blue Chevy and the abandoned black SUV. On this basis, the trial court denied the defense's motion to suppress gathered after the traffic stop of the blue Chevy.

[¶9] After this unfavorable ruling, defense counsel requested and received leave to expand the scope of his motion to suppress to address the duration of the traffic stop. The defense recalled Officer Block who admitted he did not speak to the driver of the blue Chevy about any traffic violation. The officer explained he immediately observed that the passenger of the blue Chevy matched the ...


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