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People v. Ross

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 19, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JAMES A. ROSS, Defendant-Appellee. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
RYAN A. SCHRIEFER, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Piatt County Nos. 16CF24, 16CF29 Honorable Gary A. Webber, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HARRIS JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 The State charged defendants, James A. Ross and Ryan A. Schriefer, with unlawful possession with intent to deliver cannabis while within 1000 feet of a school (720 ILCS 550/5.2, 5(e) (West 2014)) and the unauthorized production or possession of cannabis sativa plants (720 ILCS 550/8(d) (West 2014)). The charges against both defendants arose out of the same underlying set of facts. Both defendants filed motions seeking to suppress evidence they argued was improperly obtained as the result of a defective search warrant. The trial court granted defendants' motions. The State appealed in each case, and its appeals were consolidated. We reverse the trial court's grant of defendants' motions and its suppression of evidence and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On April 13, 2016, law enforcement officers searched a structure on property located at the northeastern corner of Greely and Chestnut Streets in Monticello, Illinois, pursuant to a search warrant issued earlier the same day. The record reflects the property at issue was a single lot with two buildings-a tan, two-story house and a blue, barn-shaped building that, at some point, had been used as a residence. The search at issue was of the tan house, which had a front door that faced Chestnut Street and the numbers 1002 displayed on the front of the home. The barn was associated with a street address of 817 North Greely Street in Monticello and was located north of the tan house. The search warrant set forth the street address of the property to be searched as 817 North Greely Street and further described it as follows: "A single family, tan, two[-]story dwelling located on the east side of North Greely Street with the number 817 displayed on the front, a detached barn to the north of the residence[.]"

         ¶ 4 During the search, law enforcement officers discovered cannabis and cannabis production materials. Thereafter, the State charged both defendants-Ross in case No. 16-CF-24 and Schriefer in case No. 16-CF-29-with unlawful possession with intent to deliver cannabis while within 1000 feet of a school (720 ILCS 550/5.2, 5(e) (West 2014)) and the unauthorized production or possession of cannabis sativa plants (720 ILCS 550/8(d) (West 2014)).

         ¶ 5 On July 28, 2016, defendant Schriefer filed a motion to suppress evidence. He argued the structure searched-the tan house-was a residence located at 1002 East Chestnut Street and that the search was unconstitutional because no search warrant was issued for that specific address. Rather, the search warrant referenced only a residence at the location of 817 North Greely Street in Monticello, Illinois. Additionally, Schriefer argued the facts that established probable cause for the issuance of the search warrant pertained to the residence at 817 North Greely and not the residence located at 1002 East Chestnut.

         ¶ 6 Defendant Ross also sought to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the search warrant. Specifically, on August 11, 2016, he filed a motion to quash search warrant and suppress evidence. Similar to Schriefer, Ross alleged the search warrant was defective because it set forth an address different than the one that was searched. Additionally, he alleged that allegations of fact contained in the complaint for the search warrant were insufficient to establish probable cause that a crime was being committed.

         ¶ 7 On November 15, 2016, the trial court conducted a consolidated hearing on the motions to suppress, and defendants presented the testimony of three law enforcement officers. Piatt County Sheriff David Hunt testified he was involved with the investigation of a residence located at 817 North Greely and/or 1002 East Chestnut. He stated Greely Street and Chestnut Street intersected, with Greely Street running north and south and Chestnut Street running east and west. The residence at issue was located northeast of the intersection, and Hunt agreed it was a tan building. When asked to described the buildings or homes "on that block, " Hunt testified as follows:

"I don't know all the buildings on that block. There's the vacant residence that's in question, whether it's at 817 [North Greely] or 1002 [East] Chestnut. Then to the east is the Pittman residence, Donna and Leonard Pittman which I know, and then there's a residence to the north which is Mrs. Hislope. She's an elderly woman and I went to school with her son. So there's only three residences on that property-I'm sorry, in that block, that you would consider houses."

         ¶ 8 Hunt testified he received a report of suspicious activity at the residence from Donna Pittman, his high school friend and a neighbor "of that residence." Specifically, Pittman reported that "people were coming and going from that residence." Initially, she believed they were remodeling the residence, but the activity went on for almost a year with no apparent construction taking place. Pittman also noticed that windows to the residence were covered with a black material, and she observed people "bringing in pipes, buckets, tubing[, ] and things like that."

         ¶ 9 Following Pittman's report, Hunt briefed his deputies on the information. He stated Sheriff's Deputy Justin Ernst reported driving north on Greely Street and smelling an odor of canna-bis as he drove by the residence. Following Ernst's report, Hunt also drove by the property. He stated he rolled down the windows in his patrol vehicle, slowly drove north on Greely Street, and smelled an odor of cannabis. Hunt testified he was "just north of Chestnut Street" and had "just crossed the intersection when [he] could smell it." He stated he determined the wind was blowing out of the northeast and toward either the west or southwest. Hunt acknowledged that he did not travel east on Chestnut to determine if he could detect a smell of cannabis, noting all of the information he obtained from Pittman centered on the residence at the corner of Greely and Chestnut. Additionally, Hunt asserted that there was "nothing but a corn field to the east. There's railroad tracks and a corn field, just an open field."

         ¶ 10 Hunt stated he did not "actually go check the numbers" that were affixed to the front of the target residence. In particular, he testified that, at no point prior to the execution of the search warrant, did he observe the digits 1002 on the front of the residence. Hunt testified that, after driving north on Greely and smelling cannabis, he met up with Ernst. He and Ernst then drove south on Greely "and could smell [cannabis] once again." Thereafter, Hunt and his deputies secured the area and monitored the residence. He directed Sergeant John Russell to draft a search warrant and stated he "left it up to *** Russell to do the search warrant." Hunt testified Russell had done many search warrants and "would do a check on the residence." He relied on Russell to make sure that the contents of the search warrant were correct.

         ¶ 11 Hunt further testified that he was involved in the execution of the search warrant and believed he was the first law enforcement officer in the house. He stated he drove into the driveway at the back of the residence and went to the back door, believing it to be "the door that was being used to enter and exit the residence." Hunt testified law enforcement officers knocked and announced and then entered the residence. He stated he was aware that Russell was at the front of the residence "to watch the front door in case somebody was coming out."

         ¶ 12 On both direct and cross-examination, Hunt was shown photographs from which he identified the residence that was the target of the law enforcement investigation, i.e., the tan, two-story house. He also identified the Pittman residence and a "building *** behind the target residence, " i.e., the blue barn.

         ¶ 13 Ernst testified he was involved in the investigation of a home located at the intersection of Greely and Chestnut Streets. He drove by the residence after Hunt advised him that there was "suspicious activity." Ernst stated he traveled north on Greely Street and, when he was just north of Chestnut Street, he smelled the odor of cannabis. At no point did he observe the street address affixed to the target residence. Further, Ernst testified he was involved in the execution of the search warrant. Specifically, he stated he made entry into the home with other officers and identified the "north door" at the rear of the residence as the officers' point of entry.

         ¶ 14 Ernst testified he did not know who made the decision to enter the residence through the north door. He stated there was also "a front door" that faced Chestnut Street, but he did not see anyone using that door. Ernst acknowledged, however, that he had never been to the residence before and did not know whether the front door opened and closed. He also never saw anyone using the rear door, but he did see a vehicle "parked back there."

         ¶ 15 Russell testified he had been with the Piatt County sheriff's office for 25 years and was familiar with an investigation of a residence located at the corner of Greely and Chestnut Streets. Specifically, he received information from Hunt about a report of unusual activity at the residence and then passed that information to the deputies so they could drive by the location. Russell testified he also researched the address and stated his "research indicated that the residence was underneath one address, 817 N. Greely."

         ¶ 16 Russell testified he drafted a search warrant based on the officers' observations of the location. He did not personally visit the address in question prior to preparing the complaint for a search warrant. Russell identified copies of the complaint for a search warrant he prepared and the search warrant that was issued, both of which identified the target residence as being located at "817 N. Greely Street" in Monticello.

         ¶ 17 Russell stated that, during the execution of the search warrant, his "function was security on the Chestnut side of the residence." He stated he was facing the south side of the house "where the front door faces." Russell identified photographs of the target residence showing the number 1002 displayed on a front pillar of the house. The following colloquy occurred between defendant Ross's counsel and Russell:

"Q. And as you were stationed out on the Chestnut side of the street, at what point did you observe that the address read 1002?
A. When we arrived, *** we got out, we secured the front side while they made their entry at the back, and when I looked at the front of the residence, I saw the numbers 1002.
Q. And what, if any[thing], did you do at that time?
A. There was nothing to do. They already made contact at the rear of the residence. We were at the front of the residence.
* * *
Q. So again, I'm going to be back to the moment that you realized that the number 1002 was located at the front of the residence. You testified that at that time there was nothing left to do ...

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