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People v. Meo

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

March 14, 2018

JOSEPH P. MEO, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County, Nos. 16-DT-455, 16-CM-1269; the Hon. Philip G. Montgomery, Judge, presiding.

          Richard D. Amato, State's Attorney, of Sycamore (Patrick Delfino, Lawrence M. Bauer, and Barry W. Jacobs, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          Dale J. Clark, of Slingerland & Clark, P.C., of Sycamore, for appellee.

          Panel JUSTICE BIRKETT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Defendant, Joseph P. Meo, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(2) (West 2016)) and obstructing a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/31-1 (West 2016)). Defendant's driving privileges were summarily suspended (625 ILCS 5/11-501.1(a) (West 2016)). Defendant petitioned to rescind the summary suspension. In addition, defendant filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence, arguing that there was no basis for the stop and that the arrest was not supported by probable cause. Following a hearing, the trial court granted defendant's motion.[1] The State filed a certificate of impairment and timely appealed (see Ill. S.Ct. R. 604(a)(1) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016)). We reverse and remand.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 A hearing on defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence took place on February 1, 2017. Sycamore police officer Greyson Scott was the sole witness. Scott testified that he had been a police officer for just over two years. On December 10, 2016, at about 8:30 p.m., Scott was dispatched to Casey's General Store (Casey's), located at the intersection of Plank Road and Main Street, to investigate a report of a possible drunk driver. It was snowing heavily at the time. According to Scott, a clerk at Casey's called dispatch to report a possible drunk driver in the building. Based on the clerk's report, dispatch then advised Scott that "the male driver was driving a white Scion. He had driven up to the front of the building, hitting the curb, going over the curb, and the store clerk described it as almost going into the building." Scott testified that, although he never spoke directly with the clerk, his sergeant did. After receiving the call from dispatch, Scott drove to Casey's, but rather than entering the Casey's parking lot, Scott parked his squad car in a parking lot east of Casey's so that he would have a better view of the vehicles parked in the Casey's parking lot. Upon his arrival, Scott saw a white Scion parked in the Casey's parking lot, and "fairly soon" thereafter he saw a white male, later identified as defendant, enter the vehicle.

         ¶ 4 Scott testified that defendant proceeded to exit the Casey's parking lot, heading toward Plank Road, with his vehicle's headlights on, and drove in front of Scott's vehicle. According to Scott, defendant was on a frontage road that was not marked as a city roadway or maintained by the city; it was an "exit way" that provided access to Plank Road from Casey's. As defendant drove past Scott's squad car, Scott observed defendant's headlights shut off for a "brief time" and then turn back on. Scott estimated that the headlights were off for "one to four seconds." Scott followed defendant's vehicle as it proceeded from Casey's and onto Plank Road. Scott observed defendant properly signal before entering Plank Road. Scott followed defendant's vehicle as it proceeded west toward the intersection of North Main Street and Plank Road. Scott observed defendant properly enter the left turn lane and properly signal before turning left onto North Main Street. After following defendant for about 30 seconds and observing defendant commit no traffic violations, Scott activated the lights on his squad car, and defendant stopped his vehicle appropriately. Scott stopped defendant's vehicle based on the blinking headlights and the original call. A video recording was made from Scott's squad car camera from just before the time that defendant's vehicle passed in front of Scott at Casey's until the time that Scott arrested defendant for DUI. The video was played for the court and entered into evidence.

         ¶ 5 Scott testified that, after pulling over defendant's vehicle, he approached the vehicle and spoke with defendant through the open driver's-side window. While speaking to defendant, Scott smelled alcohol on defendant's breath and noted that defendant's "eyes were glassy and bloodshot, his speech was thick-tongued and slurred." Defendant told Scott that he drank three beers about six or seven hours earlier. Scott asked defendant for his driver's license and proof of insurance. According to Scott, defendant had a hard time getting his driver's license out of his wallet and "fumbled his wallet a few times." Scott testified: "He literally had it in his hands and he dropped it out onto his lap and picked it back up and was kind of using multiple fingers to kind of manipulate the wallet in order to open it correctly." Scott testified that the driver's license was located behind a plastic flap and that it took defendant a few tries to pull the license out of the wallet. Scott stated that defendant also pulled a credit card out of the wallet and handed him the credit card instead of his insurance card.

         ¶ 6 Scott testified that he decided to perform field sobriety tests on defendant and asked him to step out of his vehicle. Because of the heavy snowfall and wind, Scott asked defendant to accompany him to a nearby Jewel pharmacy drive-through pickup area, with an overhang, so that they could be protected from the snow. Scott testified that, when he asked defendant to exit and lock his vehicle, defendant did so. Scott agreed that he wrote in his police report that defendant swayed and seemed unbalanced as he walked. Scott also agreed, however, that the video showed that defendant had no difficulty walking toward the police car in the deep snow. The video also showed that defendant, while walking toward the police vehicle, dropped his keys and was able to pick them up without difficulty. In addition, Scott agreed that, although he testified that he smelled alcohol on defendant's breath, he made no such mention on the video.

         ¶ 7 Scott transported defendant to Jewel to perform the field sobriety tests. The area under the overhang was mostly dry with just some blowing snow on the pavement. Scott testified that he asked defendant for consent to perform the tests and that defendant agreed to participate. Ultimately, defendant did not perform the tests. Scott testified that he had instructed defendant four times on how to perform the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. Defendant told Scott several times that he had some physical limitations due to a stroke. The video shows defendant telling Scott that he suffered a stroke a few months ago. As Scott was instructing defendant on how to perform the HGN test, defendant told Scott that he needed to have things repeated and asked Scott to speak slower. Defendant told him that he did not understand. During the test, defendant again told Scott that he had had a stroke and that he could not do a lot of things. Scott testified that defendant seemed very confused. Scott agreed that defendant did not have any trouble removing his glasses for the test and that defendant did not sway or stumble as he stood before him during the test. Scott repeatedly attempted to have defendant follow the top of his finger using only his eyes. Defendant told Scott that he could be having a stroke. When Scott asked defendant if he needed an ambulance, defendant responded, "I don't know."

         ¶ 8 Scott testified that he had offered nonstandardized field sobriety tests to defendant because defendant was unable to complete the HGN test. The video shows Scott asking defendant whether he had any physical limitations that would prevent him from performing the one-leg-stand test or the walk-and-turn test. Defendant said yes, because his legs had given out during his stroke. Scott asked defendant if he wanted to attempt the tests, and when defendant did not give a responsive answer, Scott told defendant that he assumed that the answer was no. Scott then offered to have defendant perform the alphabet test and asked defendant if he knew his A-B-Cs. Defendant responded that he "lost all that over the years," but then quickly asked, "A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H?" Scott asked defendant to recite the alphabet, starting at B and ending with O. Defendant said that he did not want to try it. When Scott asked defendant to count, defendant stated that he could not count anymore. Defendant stated that he had had a stroke and that his wife had left him.

         ¶ 9 The video further shows that, when Scott expressed to defendant that he felt that defendant was impaired by alcohol and unfit to drive, defendant asked to walk home. Scott then asked defendant to take a breath test. Defendant replied that he would rather just walk home. Scott again asked defendant to take a breath test. Defendant stated that he was "in stroke mode." When Scott again asked if ...

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