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People v. Dunmire

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 20, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DAVID E. DUNMIRE, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Scott County, No. 18-CF-7; the Hon. David R. Cherry, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Michael Hill, State's Attorney, of Winchester (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and James Ryan Williams, of State's Attor- neys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Todd M. Goebel, of Gates, Wise, Schlosser & Goebel, of Spring- field, for appellee.

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

          OPINION

          STEIGMANN, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In May 2018, the State charged defendant, David E. Dunmire, with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), (2), 11-501(d)(1)(I) (West 2016)), and two counts of driving under the influence. Id. § 11-501(a)(1), (2). In February 2019, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, claiming the traffic stop that resulted in his arrest was unlawful at its inception because it was not supported by reasonable suspicion. Specifically, defendant claimed that the police officer who stopped defendant's vehicle did so based on his suspicion that it had illegally tinted windows, but that officer lacked the training or tools to ascertain whether the windows were, in fact, illegally tinted.

         ¶ 2 In May 2019, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress, at which the arresting officer was the sole witness. The day after the hearing, the trial court issued a written order granting the motion because the officer "had no way to confirm his suspicions of a window tinting violation."

         ¶ 3 The State appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by granting defendant's motion to suppress because it applied an incorrect standard applicable to the fourth amendment. We agree, reverse the judgment of the trial court, and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 A. The Charges and Defendant's Motion To Suppress

         ¶ 6 In May 2018, the State charged defendant with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a)(1), (2), 11-501(d)(1)(I) (West 2016)), and two counts of driving under the influence. Id. § 11-501(a)(1), (2). In February 2019, defendant filed a "motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence," claiming the traffic stop was unlawful because the officer did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that the windows of defendant's vehicle were illegally tinted, which was the sole justification for the stop.

         ¶ 7 Defendant asserted that he was stopped on February 7, 2018, for having illegally tinted windows. Defendant alleged the officer did not observe defendant break any traffic laws. Defendant also alleged that section 12-503 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code) permits the front-side windows (those adjacent to the driver on either side of the vehicle) to be tinted up to 35% "with a 5% variance observed by any law enforcement official metering the light transmittance." Id. § 12-503(a-5), (2).

         ¶ 8 Defendant argued that an officer needed specialized training to be able to differentiate between legally and illegally tinted windows in order to have reasonable suspicion of a violation. Defendant noted the case was an issue of first impression in Illinois but cited several out-of-state cases in support of his position.

         ¶ 9 Defendant further contended that the officer did not have probable cause to arrest him for driving under the influence based on the field sobriety tests administered on the scene. Defendant asked the trial court to "quash[ ]" his arrest and to suppress "[a]ll evidence obtained from the illegal stop, detention, search, and/or custodial interrogation."

         ¶ 10 B. The Hearing

         ¶ 11 In May 2019, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress. Officer Ryan Scott Crowder of the Bluffs Police Department testified that he had been a police officer since August 2017. On the night of February 7, 2018, he was in his patrol car, which was parked near the Bluffs High School. Crowder was facing south on Highway 100. Defendant introduced into evidence a satellite image, obtained from Google Maps, depicting where Crowder was located prior to the stop. The map shows that the high school is on the northern edge of Bluffs with a large wooded area directly to the east, farmland to the northwest, and a residential area to the south and west, across the street from the school. On the map, Crowder is marked as being parked adjacent to the roadway on the west side of the southbound lane of Highway 100. Crowder is also adjacent to a fairly large school building, which would have been on the right side of his squad car.

         ¶ 12 At some point, Crowder became aware from his side mirror that a car was approaching with its headlights on. Crowder stated he first noticed the vehicle when it "was a little bit behind me but more so directly parallel beside me." Crowder did not turn around or look behind him. As the car was parallel with him, he noticed that the side windows were so dark he could not see into the vehicle. Crowder pulled out and followed the vehicle but did not observe it violate any traffic laws. Crowder initiated a traffic stop because he believed the windows were illegally tinted.

         ¶ 13 Crowder testified that he believed the law in Illinois was that a vehicle could have "30 percent tint all the way around." When asked to explain what 30% tint meant, Crowder stated, "I know that if you have 30 percent tint the lower the number the darker the tint, like 5 percent, zero percent is almost like limo tint. You can't see it at all." Crowder testified that at 30% tint, "[he] would probably say 70 percent" of light could pass through the window. Defense counsel then read the language of the window tint statute (see infra ¶ 61), and the following exchange occurred:

"Q. The Statute says that only 30 percent of the light has to pass through. So, you were mistaken about the law?
A. I know that I could not see into the window. I could not see anyone in the vehicle.
Q. And you thought that was the standard?
A. Correct.
* * *
Q *** Were you familiar with that [35%] portion of the Statute?
A. When I made the stop, I was under the impression that the window appeared illegal.
Q. Based on what percentage were you dealing with?
A. It was the fact that I could not see into the vehicle, which told me that evidently those tint, excuse me, those windows must be illegal.
Q. Well window tinting is permitted in Illinois, correct?
A. Correct.
* * *
Q. Your understanding was that 70 percent of the light had to pass through, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And that's a lot of light that's passing through, correct, more than half, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And the Statute actually says that only 30 percent of the light has to pass through, which is less than half, correct?
A. Correct.
Q. And you were under a mistaken believe [sic] about the law, correct?
A. It appeared to be illegal at the time of the stop.
Q. You were under a mistaken belief about the law, correct?
A. No."

         ¶ 14 Crowder testified he did one training exercise at the police academy concerning tinted windows. Crowder said instructors showed the trainees six different vehicles with varying levels of tint-some legal, some illegal. Crowder acknowledged he could not remember (1) the number of legal versus illegal windows, (2) the percentage of tint on any window, or (3) if any were at or near 35%. Crowder assumed some of the cars were near the 35% limit because there were so many variations. Crowder also could not recall if any of them were "limo dark, *** allowing no more than 5 percent."

         ¶ 15 Crowder explained that the training occurred in the afternoon and the vehicles were stationary. Crowder could not remember how far away from the vehicles during his training he was or if there were any light sources present other than the sun. Crowder acknowledged he had no training on identifying illegally tinted windows at night or on moving vehicles. He did not receive any training "on whether or not you should be able to see a person inside of a vehicle at night on legal versus illegal tinting."

         ¶ 16 Crowder agreed that when he was in his squad car, his "view of the windows next to [him was] not [illuminated] with the spotlights [or] overhead lights." He further agreed it was "pitch black" the night he stopped defendant, and the only lighting in the area was a "street light [sic] pole near the school," which was "probably less" than 100 feet away. Crowder stated the light was just an "area light" and ...


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