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People v. Bonilla

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

June 14, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DERRICK BONILLA, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. Circuit No. 15-CF-225 Honorable Frank R. Fuhr, Judge, presiding.

          JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Wright dissented, with opinion.

          OPINION

          CARTER, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Derrick Bonilla, was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/5(c) (West 2014)). He filed a motion to quash warrant and suppress evidence (motion to suppress), which the trial court granted after a hearing. The State appeals. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 The facts in this case are not in dispute and were stipulated to as follows by the parties at the hearing on the motion to suppress. Police officers had received a tip that drugs were being sold out of apartment 304 of the Pheasant Ridge Apartment Complex in Moline, Illinois. Acting on that tip, on March 19, 2015, the officers brought a trained drug-detection dog to that location. The exterior doors leading into the apartment building's common-area hallways were not locked, and there was no lock, pass card, entry system, or anything whatsoever on the closed exterior doors of the apartment building that would prevent any person off the street from entering into the common-area hallways of the apartment building. Once inside the apartment building, canine officer Genisio walked his drug-detection dog down some of the common-area hallways. The first area that the dog was walked through was the second floor common-area hallway, which included apartments 201, 202, 203, and 204. The dog showed no interest in that hallway and did not alert on any of the doorways. The next area Officer Genisio walked his dog through was the third floor common-area hallway, which included apartments 301, 302, 303, and 304. The dog showed no interest in apartments 301, 302, or 303. As the dog came to apartment 304, however, the dog moved back and forth in the doorway, sniffing at the bottom of the door, and signaled a positive alert for the presence of illegal drugs. The police officers obtained a search warrant for apartment 304 based upon the drug-detection dog's alert. After obtaining the search warrant, the officers searched the apartment and found a quantity of cannabis and certain other items. Defendant, who lived in apartment 304, was later arrested and charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver.

         ¶ 4 In June 2015, defendant filed the instant motion to suppress. A hearing was held on the motion in August 2016. As noted above, the parties stipulated to the facts for the hearing and no additional testimony or other evidence was presented. At the conclusion of the hearing, after listening to the arguments of the attorneys, the trial court granted the motion to suppress. In so doing, the trial court stated:

"But I think whether you are doing it as a privacy interest under Kylo [sic] [(Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001))] or a curtilage property interest under Jardines [(Florida v. Jardines, 569 U.S.__, 133 S.Ct. 1409 (2013))], I think it would just be unfair to say you can't come up on a person who lives in a single family residence and sniff his door but you can go into someone's hallway and sniff their door if they happen to live in an apartment. That's a distinction with an unfair difference. So I'm granting the motion."

         ¶ 5 After the State's oral motion to reconsider was denied, the State appealed. The State did not file a separate certificate of impairment but did set forth in its notice of appeal that the granting of defendant's motion to suppress had the substantive effect of dismissing the charges.

         ¶ 6 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 7 On appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion to suppress evidence. The State asserts, although not necessarily in the order that follows, that the motion to suppress should have been denied because (1) the common-area hallway in front of defendant's apartment door, where the alleged search took place, did not constitute curtilage under the law; (2) defendant had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the common-area hallway or in the air or odor of cannabis emanating from under his apartment door; (3) neither the United States Supreme Court's ruling in Jardines nor the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling in Burns (People v. Burns, 2016 IL 118973, ¶¶ 31-45) supports the trial court's grant of the motion to suppress in the instant case; (4) under the established precedent, the police dog sniff in this case was not a search for purposes of the fourth amendment and was different from the thermal imaging scan that was condemned by the United States Supreme Court in Kyllo; and (5) even if this court finds that the alleged search violated the fourth amendment, the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule operates to avoid suppression of the evidence seized under the search warrant in this case since the police were acting in reliance upon the legal landscape as it existed at the time with respect to the use of drug-detection dogs in areas that were open to the general public. For all of the reasons set forth, the State asks that we reverse the trial court's grant of the motion to suppress and that we remand this case for further proceedings.

         ¶ 8 Defendant argues that the trial court's ruling was proper and should be upheld. Defendant asserts that the motion to suppress was correctly granted because the police officer physically intruded, without an implied license, on the constitutionally protected curtilage just outside of defendant's apartment door to conduct a warrantless search with a drug-detection dog. According to defendant, it makes no difference in this case on the determination of curtilage whether the main entry to the apartment building was locked or unlocked. Defendant acknowledges that the police officer, like any other member of the public, had an implied license to approach defendant's apartment and knock on the front door, but claims that the officer exceeded the scope of that license by approaching with a trained drug-detection dog for the sole purpose of detecting illegal activity within the apartment. Defendant asserts further that the good faith exception does not apply in this case because the police officer could not have reasonably believed under any United States precedent that his actions were authorized. For all of the reasons stated, defendant asks that we affirm the trial court's suppression order.

         ¶ 9 In general, a reviewing court applies a two-part standard of review to a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress evidence. Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699 (1996); People v. Gaytan, 2015 IL 116223, ¶ 18. Under that two-part standard, the trial court's findings of fact are given great deference and will not be reversed on appeal unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence (Burns, 2016 IL 118973, ¶ 15), but the trial court's ultimate legal ruling of whether reasonable suspicion or probable cause exists and whether suppression is warranted is subject to de novo review on appeal (Id. ¶ 16; People v. Sorenson, 196 Ill.2d 425, 431 (2001)). In this particular case, however, the parties stipulated to the facts in the trial court and raised only a question of law at the hearing on the motion to suppress. The standard of review in this appeal, therefore, is de novo because we are being called upon to review the trial court's legal ruling on the question of law that was presented. See Burns, 2016 IL 118973, ¶ 16.

         ¶ 10 The specific issue before us in this appeal is whether the police officer violated defendant's fourth amendment rights when he entered the common-area hallway of the unlocked apartment building and conducted a dog sniff of the front door of defendant's apartment. More specifically, we must determine whether the police officer's actions constituted a search for purposes of the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const., amend. IV; Burns, 2016 IL 118973, ¶ 19. Article I, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution provides similar protection. See Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 6; Burns, ...


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