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People v. Jordan

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 12, 2019

WILLIAM R. JORDAN, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County No. 17CF1802 Honorable Thomas E. Griffith Jr. Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Jay Scott, State's Attorney, of Decatur (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and Luke McNeill, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          Attorneys for Appellee: James E. Chadd, John M. McCarthy, and Edward J. Wittrig, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Springfield, for appellee.

          JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Knecht and Turner concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The State charged defendant, William R. Jordan, with unlawful possession of methamphetamine (720 ILCS 646/60(a), (b)(1) (West 2016)). Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence against him, which the trial court granted. The State appeals, arguing the court erred. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In December 2017, the State charged defendant with unlawfully possessing less than five grams of a substance containing methamphetamine (id.). The charge stemmed from an incident in which two police officers responded to a report of a "suspicious vehicle" and encountered defendant, who was sitting inside a parked car that matched the description of the suspicious vehicle. After one of the officers observed a small "1 inch by 1 inch plastic bag" or "baggie" lying on the floorboard of the parked car, defendant was ordered to exit the vehicle and a K-9 officer was called to the scene for a dog "sniff." The dog "hit" on the vehicle, and following a search, the police found the suspected controlled substance.

         ¶ 4 In August 2018, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, arguing he was illegally seized and detained in violation of his fourth amendment rights. He maintained that the police officers "conducting the stop" lacked any reasonable, articulable suspicion to believe that he committed or was about to commit a crime. Defendant also filed a memorandum in support of his motion to suppress, arguing he "was seized" during the encounter with the police when the officers "rejected his explanation for his presence and demanded that he answer their questions differently." He argued a reasonable person would not have felt free to leave the stop or decline to answer questions, noting that he was approached by "multiple uniformed officers" who "flanked both sides of his vehicle while shining a flashlight into the car," the officers' weapons were visible, the volume of the officers' voices increased during the stop, and the officers' requests "became more direct as the stop progressed." Defendant also argued that the presence of the small plastic bag in the car did not give rise to a reasonable suspicion of a crime because "[t]here are many lawful uses for plastic bags." Further, he asserted that the dog sniff unlawfully prolonged the stop. Defendant asked the trial court to suppress the evidence that resulted from his unlawful seizure and the search of the vehicle.

         ¶ 5 In February 2019, the State filed a response to defendant's motion to suppress. First, it argued that the initial encounter between defendant and the police was consensual and that defendant was not seized until the police officers ordered him to step out of the vehicle. The State also argued that the officers' observance of the small plastic bag, along with other circumstances, provided them with a reasonable, articulable suspicion of criminal activity, resulting in a lawful seizure of defendant. Alternatively, it asserted that if defendant was seized upon the officers' approach to the vehicle, the seizure was permissible under the community caretaking doctrine. Finally, the State argued that the stop was not unduly prolonged by the decision to call and wait for a K-9 officer because "the duration of the stop was no longer than was necessary to complete the mission of the stop," i.e., to investigate the suspected criminal drug activity.

         ¶ 6 In March 2019, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion. Defendant presented the testimony of Stephanie Vail, a police officer for the city of Decatur, Illinois. Vail testified that on the evening of October 30, 2017, the police received a call about a "suspicious vehicle" in the 2100 block of East Lawrence Street. Specifically, a resident reported that there was a parked vehicle on that block that the resident did not recognize, "and [the car's engine] was being turned on and off several times and people [were] going in and out of the vehicle." Vail testified she responded to the scene and observed a car matching the description of the suspicious vehicle. The car was parked, and its engine was turned off. Vail pulled up behind the parked vehicle in her marked patrol car, activated her in-car camera, and put a spotlight on the parked vehicle to illuminate its interior. A second police officer, Matthew Kaufman, who was also in a marked patrol vehicle, responded to the scene and parked behind Vail. Both officers were in uniform and armed.

         ¶ 7 Vail stated that after arriving on scene, she conducted "an investigative stop." She walked up to the driver's side of the vehicle and made contact with the vehicle's sole occupant, who was sitting in the driver's seat. Vail stated she believed the driver's side window was up and she made contact with the vehicle's occupant by knocking on the window. The occupant, who was ultimately identified as defendant, opened the driver's side door. Vail stated she introduced herself and explained why she was there and that she had "a right" to make contact with defendant. She testified she inquired as to why defendant was there and what he was doing. Defendant responded that he was waiting on a ride. Vail asked defendant for identification and again inquired as to "why he was there." Defendant reiterated that he was "waiting on a ride." Vail then asked defendant why he was at that location specifically.

         ¶ 8 According to Vail, Kaufman, who had approached the parked vehicle on its passenger side, indicated that he "observed something in the vehicle, some kind of illegal packaging." Vail then asked defendant to step out of the vehicle. She described defendant as "uncooperative" and stated he responded that "he had no reason to step out of the vehicle" and that Vail "couldn't order him to step out." Vail also recalled defendant stating that he did not have shoes or a jacket on and that "it was cold out." Ultimately, defendant complied with the officers' orders to exit the vehicle; however, he refused to identify himself. Vail testified she informed defendant that he would be arrested for "obstructing identification" if he did not provide his name.

         ¶ 9 Approximately 10 minutes into the stop and after defendant was ordered to exit the vehicle, Vail requested that a K-9 unit respond to the scene and "conduct a sniff of the vehicle." She explained that "dispatch time" for the call was 11:23 p.m. and that she called for the K-9 at approximately 11:33 p.m. The K-9 officer arrived on the scene about four minutes later. While waiting for the K-9 to arrive, Vail continued to speak with defendant, trying to get him to identify himself. Defendant did not provide his name, but he did consent to a pat down of his person, which Kaufman performed.

         ¶ 10 Vail further testified that officers received information regarding calls from "dispatch" and through "dispatch notes" on their vehicle computers. Defendant submitted a printout of dispatch notes into evidence, and Vail identified them as the notes she received from the call at issue. She agreed that she received the following information: "lgt blu 4dr, unk if occupied, been sitting parked in front of the vacant lot btwn 2137-2151 *** CALLED ABOUT RESP TIME / SUBJECTS HAVE SHUT THE VEHICLE OFF / IT IS OCCUPPIED AT LEAST 2 TIMES."

         ¶ 11 On cross-examination, Vail testified she relied on the information she received from dispatch when approaching the parked car. Also, upon arriving at the scene, neither she nor Kaufman had the overhead emergency lights on their vehicles activated. Vail explained that the purpose of making contact with defendant was to determine what he was doing in the area. She stated as follows:

"It is a high drug sale use, high crime area. Therefore, we were trying to figure out when a neighbor calls in and they're concerned about a vehicle in the area, we don't know who is in that vehicle or what that vehicle is doing there. So that was basically just to inquire who is in the car, what they're doing in the car, what they're doing in the area."

         Vail estimated that the police were called to the same area where the parked car was located "several times a month."

         ¶ 12 According to Vail, defendant reported that he was waiting in the parked car for a licensed driver to arrive. However, she continued to question him because "what he was telling [her] didn't make much sense." Specifically, Vail testified defendant had "no explanation as to why he was actually there." She stated defendant did not live in that area and had no family or friends that lived there.

         ¶ 13 Vail further testified that when she and Kaufman initially made contact with defendant he was free to leave. However, he was no longer free to leave at the time she "pulled him out" of the vehicle "since *** Kaufman viewed the potential drug packaging in the vehicle."

         ¶ 14 On redirect examination, Vail testified that when she described the area defendant was in as a high crime area, she was referring to "that block" and "even blocks to the north and south." However, she did not have any statistics or specific details regarding that area or the circumstances of the police being dispatched there.

         ¶ 15 On questioning by the trial court, Vail provided more information regarding defendant and the parked car's location. She also testified that, during the encounter with defendant, he reported that he did not have a valid driver's license.

         ¶ 16 The State presented Kaufman's testimony. Kaufman described the location of the encounter-the 2100 block of East Lawrence Street-as "a high drug, high crime neighborhood," stating the police had received complaints of narcotics sales on the same block and that there had been shootings that occurred in the area. Kaufman testified he responded to the report of a "suspicious vehicle" and was given a description of the vehicle and its location along with information that the vehicle "was on at one point and off at one point and people had been coming and going to and from the vehicle." Kaufman stated he received information about the call through a computer terminal in his squad car.

         ¶ 17 Upon arriving at the scene, Kaufman observed a parked vehicle that matched the description he was given. Vail responded to the scene in a separate vehicle, and Kaufman parked his squad car behind Vail's car. While Vail approached the driver's side of the parked vehicle, Kaufman approached the passenger side. Vail spoke with the vehicle's occupant, who was later identified as defendant, and Kaufman used his flashlight to look for items in plain view inside the vehicle. He testified he "saw an approximately 1 inch by 1 inch plastic bag" that was "partially concealed under the floor mat on the front passenger's side of the vehicle." Kaufman testified the bag had a "press seal" and that it looked "like a sandwich bag" but tinier. The following colloquy then occurred between the trial court and Kaufman:

"THE COURT: -hang on. I am confused. I've never seen a 1 inch by 1 inch sandwich bag.
A. That's because based on my police training and experience, it's a single use bag specifically used for street level narcotic sales. It's about this big by this wide (Indicating) and it's got-
THE COURT: -and it's got a seal on the top? A. It does.
THE COURT: Okay. All right. Learn something new every day."

         ¶ 18 Kaufman further testified that he had never seen "that type of baggie" outside of drug sales; however, he agreed that he was "not saying that nobody has." He stated he suspected "that there might be illegal narcotics" in the small plastic bag he observed and testified his suspicions were based on the following circumstances:

"The history of that specific block; the complaint, it was third shift hours; the car did not check to that area, it checked to a female and there was a male driver; my observations of the baggie on the floorboard, based on my police training and experience, I know those specific bags to be only used, from my experience, for street level narcotics sales or use."

         ¶ 19 Kaufman testified that he and Vail had not been at the scene very long when he observed the small plastic bag on the floor of the vehicle. As soon as he saw the small plastic bag, he crossed to the driver's side of the vehicle and asked defendant to step out of the vehicle. Kaufman stated that prior to "pulling him out of the vehicle," defendant had been free to leave. However, he was not free to leave after being pulled out. Once defendant was out of the vehicle, a pat down of his person was conducted for officer safety. A K-9 officer was also called to the scene. Kaufman estimated that it took four minutes for the K-9 officer to arrive. He testified that the K-9 "hit" on the vehicle and he conducted a probable cause search of the vehicle and defendant's person. Inside the vehicle by the driver's door, Kaufman found "a corner of a sandwich bag" with ...

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